NeoDogs and Neodolphins

   Since the topic has come up in the Federation-Apocalypse campaign, here’s a detailed description of the history of, and the racial modifiers for, NeoDog and NeoDolphin characters. As usual, these are set up using the point-buy rules for Eclipse The Codex Persona Classless d20 (available in print HERE or in a shareware version HERE). This doesn’t cover too much of the NeoDolphin culture, since that isn’t especially well known at the moment.

   The visionary scientific organization that would later become known as the “Malenfant” (or “Strange Child”) Foundation – driven by the general disappointment of nearly two centuries of interstellar exploration without the discovery of sapient life other than the Tahl (a species of alien fish with a primitive oral culture and no real manipulative organs) – began organized work on the genetic designs for various uplifted “neo-“animal species in 2297, and had limited tests of particular genetic complexes underway by the very early 2300’s. Unfortunately, they were denied permission to proceed further, thanks to both environmental laws and restrictions on the genetic engineering of sapient creatures. Unwilling to accept this, the foundation set up secret, private, facilities in the asteroid belt and produced the first full batch of 100 prototype Neodogs in 2314.

   Similar batches of Neodolphins, Newsquids, and Neochimpanzees were in existence by 2317, at which time the existence of the uplift project, along with plans for more than a dozen other neo-species (including a fair selection of dangerous land-dwelling species), was discovered by the Federation at large. The uplift project was shut down – but the foundations genetic engineers had been careful to insert genetic obedience-programming oriented towards humans into the various neo-species, rendering them blatantly harmless. Faced with a fiat accompli, and unwilling to put to death hundreds of helpless sapient creatures, the debates continued across the federation until the public reached a consensus: work on refining the existing neospecies was permitted to resume in 2328. The final genetic enhancements were completed in 2376 (NeoDogs), 2378 (NeoChimps), 2379 (NeoDolphins), and 2380 (NeoSquids).

   Since it had been decided that most of the work involved had been acceptable, the scientists involved were released from mandatory counseling, rebuked for breaking the rules, and informed that – from now on – their work would be officially monitored. They were also bombarded with requests from small children that they make their hamster/turtle/canary/etcetera talk, but that was fairly easily dealt with by filtering software. The various neospecies remained officially transferable chattels, requiring a human guardian/master, but enjoyed a modest selection of civil rights otherwise – requiring that they be adequately cared for in a variety of ways and prohibiting their mistreatment. Notably, thanks to concerns over the stability of their genetic modifications, they were not given reproductive rights – although a number of breeding pairs of neodolphins were released into the Atlantic ocean as early as 2428.

   Limited neurosurgical deprogramming experiments began in 2442, after a couple of stable generations#. Unfortunately, they were less than successful in neosquids and neochimps; both proved erratic and unable to adapt to human civilization when operating unrestricted. Those two species remain supervised laboratory curiosities to this day*. Neodolphins and neodogs were more successful, and limited genetic deprogramming was permitted after 2482. Greater civil rights, including reproductive rights and the usual luxury-credit allowance, were extended to the (modest) deprogrammed population in 2512.

   As of 2572, there are some 6.2 million neodogs – almost all of them which have ever been born – scattered amongst the human population. The vast majority – all except about 12,000 of them – are still on earth and still genetically obedience-programmed (and hence chattel). A fairly high percentage are relatively young. There was a brief craze for NeoDog companions for youngsters during the early days of the Opening, since they could evidently accompany children (and hopefully “look after them”) if they vanished – but there were few substantial results: while not a few Gatekeepers and Openers still have NeoDog companions/pets, their young masters simply dragged them along into the Manifold where the NeoDogs were helpless to do much about whatever mischief their owners got into. Traditionalists rapidly returned to classical breeds and modernists continued to employ low-maintenance and high-utility computer remotes or “Imps” as pets instead, leaving many of the obedience-programmed Neodogs more or less forgotten, free to experiment with their own oral-tale and pack-oriented culture. Perhaps unfortunately, many of them have been seduced by the easy virtual amusements and basic comforts of Core, and simply spend their time amusing themselves and waiting for some human to come and adopt them.

   Some of the free Neodogs and some idealistic humans are quietly running a project to deprogram and educate pet-class Neodogs, but the process is expensive and interest limited, hence progress has been slow.

   Neodolphins are a great deal more populous, despite a far larger number of casualties. Released into the earth’s oceans, and provided with limited computer support, they have currently displaced most of the natural species of dolphins and porpoises, as well as most of the sharks in competitive size ranges. Their estimated population stands at 118 million, with perhaps one-third that many deceased and active in the Manifold. No complete genetic survey has been possible, but medical assistance records (parasite removal 97%, all other categories 3%) indicate that at least 98% of the population – down from 99% 30 years ago – still carries genetic obedience imprinting. While NeoDolphins do obligingly play with swimmers, divert people in small boats from dangerous waters, and provide other minor services (such as swimmer rescue – if, in these days of smartclothes life-support and computer monitoring, a swimmer should ever need it) they seem to have neatly subverted the designers intent by simply only learning their own variant language – composed of a mixture of adapted human words, classical cetacean sounds, invented words, and sonar pulses, spoken in cadences and frequencies that humans can only hear bits of and cannot speak at all. Simple lack of contact, of course, weakens such programming even further.

   Humans can still call on the services of the obedience-programmed NeoDolphins, but will generally need to be either skillful telepaths, or to haul along a translation system, if they wish to do so. This is rarely done: for the most part, computer and force field systems perform almost any task better than a dolphin with no manipulative limbs. A few NeoDolphins have been included on colonizing expeditions to worlds with extensive oceans, but such groups are still dependent on extensive support everywhere except the very oldest worlds; supporting a hunting lifestyle requires a fully-established earth-type oceanic ecology. A fair number may have begun to colonize the manifold however: it is not uncommon for them to accompany sailing vessels that Gatekeepers and Openers are taking out of core.

   At this point relatively little is known of the culture the Neodolphins are developing: it appears to be highly oral (of course), and likely to be stressing the development of psychic and magical skills. It also seems to be somewhat more ruthless and darwinistic than current human cultures, possibly because there are no places of safety for them in the sea.

   *Current research on neosquids suggests that the difficulty lies in the basic neural architecture; without governing inhibitions and forced external obligations, the neosquid brain tends to lock itself in instinct-satisfaction dreamstates. Correcting this would require a complete redesign, and – since the discovery of actual aliens and the Manifold – the drive to do so simply isn’t there any longer. The difficulty with Neochimps has never been satisfactorily analyzed since it seems to lie in Manifold-based – and essentially untraceable – soul-feedback. Uninhibited Neochimps tend to become increasingly erratic and violent over time. Most speculation revolves around having two such closely related sapient species attempting to co-exist in close proximity in core, especially with one so heavily outnumbering the other. A few scholars have suggested a relationship to the extinction of the various other homid lines in prehistory, but – at least for now – any such relationship is purely speculative.

   #With their lifespans extended to near-human (multicentury) levels and the potential to produce offspring regularly for several centuries, it’s probably a good thing that the designers of the neospecies implemented an extended maturity curve (sexual maturity at about 15 years but essentially infertile until full physical maturity at approximately 20-25, gestation of ten months in NeoDogs, eighteen in Neodolphins), designed the females to be infertile for a minimum of 4-5 years after each pregnancy, limited them to one, or (rarely) two offspring at a time, and ensured that they were not fertile with their base species. All the neo-species also show the usual neotonous characteristics – extended periods of dependency, as well as learning time, curiosity, and playfulness extending into adulthood. Both NeoDolphins and NeoDogs are sexually active year-round, a feature added to Neodogs – after some debate – simply to prevent a comprehension gap between them and humans.


NeoDog Racial Template (+0 ECL / 31 CP).

  • +2 Str, +4 Dex, +4 Con (Normally 60 CP, reduced to 30 CP by world laws).
  • +1 Natural Armor (Defender. Specialized: Does not increase with level, 3 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Scent (6 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP. Note that the geneticists upgraded their basic sensitivity to color and detail to human standards)
  • Adept (6 CP): Half cost on buying the Jump, Listen, Spot, and Survival skills.
  • +2 to Jump (1 CP).
  • Martial Arts/1d4 Innate Weapons, always considered armed (3 CP).
  • Immunity/Aging (uncommon/minor/minor, 2 CP). They can expect to live for several centuries without much of any signs of aging.
  • Grant of Aid/Specialized (requires several hours): May heal 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 points of attribute damage OR one negative level once per three levels per day or part thereof, 3 CP), with the Regenerative option/Corrupted (requires lots of food and rest, 2 CP), allowing them to slowly regrow lost limbs and organs.

   That would be 62 CP, but the entire template can be considered specialized, reducing the net cost to 31 CP – the limit for a +0 ECL template. The factors here include the simple fact that NeoDogs have four legs (adding 10′ to their ground movement), but no arms or hands – which pretty much eliminates the use of most tools, weapons, and shields, keeps them from donning or removing armor or life support systems, blocks the use of effects requiring gestures, makes it easy for them to be tied up or trapped, and so on. They also have strong instincts (the game master may call for will checks where relevant – such as for any attempt to violate pack loyalty), limited legal rights in core (and most other areas), and may be subject to obedience programming – forcing them to consider one or more humans as their masters. Fortunately for them, along with bringing their intelligence up to baseline human levels, the genetic engineers also inserted genes for longevity and enhanced healing abilities.


Neodolphin Racial Template (+0 ECL / 31 CP)

  • Dex +4, Con +2, Int +2 (48 CP, reduced to 24 CP by World Laws).
  • Celerity (18 CP), +20′ Swim Movement, +8 to all Swim Checks, may “take 10” under stress.
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Sonar (6 CP) (Specialized: only really works well in water, but works nicely out to 120 feet). Note that dolphin sonar is capable of resolving fairly fine details, examining the internal structure of bodies and many other items, and of medical diagnostics. Relevant checks are made with the Listen skill.
  • Innate “Enchantment”/Aquatic Adaptions (12 CP) plus Immunity to Antimagic and Dispelling / Only to protect these abilities (these are personal-only physical adaptions, and work perfectly well in Core, 6 CP): Personal Haste (+1 Attack when making a full attack, +30′ Movement [2000 GP]), Streamlining (+30′ swimming, [1400 GP]), Deep Breathing (can hold their breaths up to ten minutes, [1400 GP]), Wakefullness (NeoDolphins are never fully asleep, although they do suffer a -4 penalty on perception and swimming checks during rest periods, [1400 GP]), +5 to Listen checks while in water [1400 GP], Hide Like Ox (+1 Natural Armor, to represent their fatty layer, 1400 GP), Augmented Natural Weapons (increases base damage to 1d8, only when ramming in water, [1000 GP]).
  • Adept (6 CP): Half cost on buying the Listen, Spot, Survival, and Swim skills.
  • +4 to Listen and Swim (4 CP)
  • Martial Arts/1d4 Innate Weapons, always considered armed (3 CP).
  • Immunity/Aging (uncommon/minor/minor, 2 CP). They can expect to live for several centuries without much of any signs of aging.
  • Grant of Aid/Specialized (requires several hours): May heal 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 points of attribute damage OR one negative level once per three levels per day or part thereof, 3 CP), with the Regenerative option/Corrupted (requires lots of food and rest, 2 CP), allowing them to slowly regrow lost limbs and organs.

   That would be 92 CP, but the entire template can be considered both Specialized and Corrupted, reducing the net cost to 31 CP – the limit for a +0 ECL template. After all, NeoDolphins are virtually helpless on land and have no manipulative limbs – keeping them from using virtually all equipment, including the stuff that you only have to wear, unless someone helps them. Secondarily, they have no sense of smell, limited legal rights in core (and most other areas), and may be subject to obedience programming – forcing them to give a very high priority to human orders. Fortunately for them, along with bringing their intelligence up to baseline human levels, the genetic engineers also inserted genes for longevity and enhanced healing abilities.

Legend of the Five Rings: Ivory Kingdom Schools

   The Asuras and Devas from the previous L5R post use a lot of new schools. While the Meditations of Unity is the only one to be fully posted so far – if only to preserve some surprises for the players – here are some capsule descriptions of the rest of those schools. Which of them actually gets posted next depends partially on whimsy and partially on which ones draw the most questions (and investigation) from the players and/or people who stumble across them online.

   It should be noted that most of the Ivory Kingdoms schools are quite powerful, if often fairly narrowly specialized. After all, quite a few of their developers have been refining them for dozens of lifetimes. The school design rules can be found in the player’s packet .PDF.

   Blood Tide: This semi-vampiric discipline supposedly allows its practitioners to drain their victims abilities to enhance their own, to entrap their victims souls in living brains within their decaying bodies, and to animate the dead to serve them. This reputation is likely a mixture of truth and rumor.

   Dharmadahara School: This Courtier school focuses on the detection of truth, the administration of justice, and near-universal expertise through the manipulation of Void.

   Dheramada School: This “courtier” school focuses on manipulating others, both by obtaining various services, through minor psychic abilities, and by imbuing companions – whether human or animal – with a portion of the user’s power and dispatching them on various missions. Oddly enough, a notable assassins’s school, at least to those (very very few) who know enough about it to recognize the possibilities.

   Elemental Storm: A semi-spellcasting school, focused on obtaining massive magical “favors” from various sorts of spirits and on amplifying the relevant skills to permit larger-than usual favors. One of the most effective schools around for causing widespread destruction.

   Forest Demon: A stealth-assassination school which uses a wide variety of poisons, eccentric weapons, and bizarre techniques to achieve the advantages of surprise in combat. Not all that effective in battle, but very useful in escaping.

   Garuda: A “courtier” school emphasizing knowledge, awareness, and investigation, albeit with a few basic defensive techniques thrown into the bargain. Practitioners are noted for their intuitive talent at assessing the odds in any situation.

   Gaze of Yama: A series of techniques allowing the user to inflict massive penalties on opponents in the immediate vicinity simply by willing it so, coupled with some basic weapons techniques designed to handle the opponents so weakened.

   Hungry Ghost: An eccentric school which focuses on biting people – for large amounts of damage – and on using the swallowed chunks of flesh to create mystical links between the user and his victims, allowing him or her to track said victims, drain their abilities, and even to tap into some of their magical talents, if any.

   Inner Citadel: A school focusing on resistances, supernatural immunities, and unbreakable will, but with some more conventional defensive aspects.

   Invincible Guardian: Apparently a highly defensive discipline, focused on defense, absorbing large amounts of damage, and spotting potential attackers regardless of their attempts to conceal themselves and their intentions. Somewhat unusual, in that it can be used to defend others as well as the user.

   Iron Body: A straightforward school focusing on invulnerability, or as close to such as a string of techniques will get you.

   Leaping Flame Sword: A straightforward sword school, focused on speed, acrobatic movement and evasions, and strikes.

   Night Wind of the Soul: Believed to focus on demonic powers, sendings, and summonings. Has not yet been seen in action, and is one of the more secretive schools out there. It’s few practitioners rarely share their knowledge.

   Purifying Waters: Primarily a healing and purifying school for exorcists, albeit granting access to some fairly strong water effects at higher ranks.

   Rahu-Ketu School of the Midnight Sun. This strongly mystical school focuses on the powers of Light and Darkness Magic – although NEVER using both at the same time. Most practitioners stick to the lesser powers; the use of the greater ones have sometimes resulted in massive disasters – although no one is really sure; no one has ever survived such an occurance.

   Seven Secret Cuts: Apparently focuses on spell-like powers, channeled through sword-strikes and based on elemental effects. The Strike of the Water Dragon seems to freeze everyone in a wide radius (killing weaker opponents and entrapping more powerful ones) while the Void Dragon Slash is a teleportation effect. Secondarily, it seems to offer some athletics enhancements, to aid maneuvering.

   ShadowFire: An unarmed and unarmored school focusing on the ability to call forth spiritual fire which feeds on defined qualities. Secondary techniques include supernatural sight, body-control, self-healing, and other “monkish” talents.

   Shattering Palm: An unarmed school focusing on raw destruction – including that of masses of stone, of the structure of spells, of weapons and armor, and of bones and flesh. Not really the best against an armed and skilled opponent, but an effective tool in a wide variety of situations and about the only known school that allows you to block incoming spells by smashing them with your bare hands.

   Sun Blade School: Reportedly an almost totally-offensive school which allows it’s users to inflict tremendous amounts of damage wielding weapons conjured from nothingness.

   Ward of Heaven: A spirit-mastery school, who’s wielders can temporarily bestow the benefits of various spirit-ally augmentations on a sizable number of allies. Masters can anchor their allies spirits with their own bodies, keeping them from dying no matter how severe their physical injuries. This cannot be maintained indefinitely, and magical healing will usually be needed once the body is past the normal point of death, but it can still be extremely useful.

   Whispers of the Winds: A school apparently focusing on supernatural senses and awareness of the user’s surroundings. Dangerous at higher levels thanks to the awareness it grants of flaws in defenses, nerve points, and similar weaknesses.

Asuras and Devas in the Ivory Kingdoms

   Well, given that the party in the Legend of the Five Rings campaign is currently messing about in the Ivory Kingdoms, here’s a quick accounting for the various Asuras and Devas they’ve encountered so far. Note that EVERY Asura and Deva is normaly a past master of the Meditations of Unity. Some basic notes on their schools will be posted later.

   The Asuras or “Demon-Gods” (more properly “extremely powerful and erratic people who just come back in ten or fifteen years even if you manage to kill them – which is unlikely at best”) of the Ivory Kingdoms tend to be arrogant, feared, deferred to, and – after a few lifetimes – usually accept that as a right. They’re usually more than a bit obsessive and unstable. Still, many of them are, in fact, relatively decent people – but they’ve been used to being a law unto themselves for centuries and are as dangerous to hang around as any other high-powered adventurer type.

   The fact that – since they are free to focus on upgrading their rings and buying up skills to the point where they can yield rank enhancements rather than spending experience points on buying techniques – they are often rank six or so, and masters of multiple schools (even discounting the Meditations of Unity), in their twenties or below, just make things worse.

   So far the group has dealt, at least briefly, with several Asuras:

   Two pirates attacked them on the way into the Ivory Kingdoms, looking for the exotic wealth that a ship from the Empire was likely to contain – Jitender Narkoon (M), a master of the Seven Secret Cuts and the Leaping Flame Sword schools and Rangan Kieroth (M), a master of the Hungry Ghost School and the Night Wind of the Soul School. While Rangan was killed and Jitender driven off, it was a narrow victory, and many of the other people aboard were killed in the process.

   In the port city of Andana the group briefly encountered Kashinath Daman (M), one of the most powerful Asura in the area and a master of the Elemental Storm School, the Invincible Guardian School, and the Sun Blade School, in the Temple Quarter, but decided not to interact much with him. Toku Najite briefly encountered Vajrasena Shivan (M), a master of the Blood Tide School and partial master of the Forest Demon School on the city streets thereafter, and witnessed the horrible results of turning his wrath against a young pickpocket.

   In the Emirship of Timingila, where the group went to visit the Tomb of Sarphabanda (AKA, the Tomb of the Rakasha or the Tomb of the Designer), and later the Emir, they also encountered – and at least briefly allied with against Narakikin Vyathayry, a Rakasha of Torment – a small group of Asuras. The five members include Vikrant Madan (M), a ten-year-old master of the Shadowfire School (currently working on the Inner Citadel School), Prisidivati Vasina (F), a mistress of the Purifying Waters School and an expert in Mantras who is currently working on the Whispers of the Winds School, Rathavabhasa (M), a master of the Shattering Palm School and the Iron Body School, Kashyapa Megha (M), a master of the Gaze of Yama and Invincible Guardian Schools, and Chandravati Vigsara (F): a mistress of the Dheramada and Garuda Schools, as well as a dabbler in various mystical arts (Mantra, Mudra, and the Impersonal Disciplines) (all explained in either the Campaign Handout Packet or the Legend of the Five Rings tab).

   The Devas, or “Guardian Lords” (perhaps better translated as “extremely powerful but restrained people who come back if you somehow manage to kill them”) tend to be self-righteous, superior, and more than a bit smug. They’ve been at this for many lifetimes, and tend to treat everyone else – except for the Asuras – as small children. Asuras they just treat like over-excitable adolescents. They’re presence is vital for maintaining stability in the Ivory Kingdoms, but they’re rarely well liked until they get so old that everyone expects the ancient sage to treat them like a child.

   Like the Asuras, they’re free to focus on gaining rank rather than spending experience points on buying techniques, which tends to make them atrocities of power at a relatively young age. Unlike the Asuras, they traditionally go by a single name to signify their renunciation of the world.

   In the port city of Andana the group spent some time talking with Padmottara (M), one of the local high priests. His abilities are completely unknown, since the group was only looking for some advice and information at the time. He seemed to be good at that, for what it’s worth.

   In distant Hipigala, Ninsei used the Recondite Weave and the Mandate of Heaven to get into touch with Rasavara – now a Deva, once a young prince and Asura who’s death after a lengthy hibernation-meditation (focused on his eventual vengeance) eventually led to the creation of Sarphabanda, the Rakasha of Artifice (whom he fought several times in later lives). Rasavara (M) is extremely elderly at the moment, and will soon have to start a new life. He’s apparently still a powerful master of Techynic Magic, as well as (presumably) a master of several other schools.

   In the Timingila Winter Palace the group encountered the four Deva who were supporting the local government. The Deva were originally just keeping an eye on these disruptive foreigners and the five Asuras they’d towed along – but fighting a powerful Rakasha obviously took precedence over such concerns. This group includes Chandana (M): a master of the Ward of Heaven School and the Dharmadahara School, Mirdangimi (F), a mistress of the Rahu-Ketu School of the Midnight Sun and the Inner Citadel Schools, Ratna-Chandra (F), a mistress of the Ward of Heaven School and the Garuda School, as well as a dabbler in Mantras, and Vipashyin (M), a master of the Sun Blade School and a student of the Leaping Flame Sword School.

The Meditations of Unity: an Ivory Kingdoms Advanced Courtier School

   In any given life, with each turning of the wheel, a soul may accumulate powers and techniques, memories and secrets, skills and lore, good and evil, links with other souls and strange affinities.

   In death, as souls transmigrate between the realms, from the prospective of those trapped within time and the turnings of the wheel, such things may take on lives of their own – each a facet of the central core, separate, yet linked outside of time. A soul may become a celestial kami, a demon of destruction, a spirit of trickery, an honored ancestor who aids his or her descendants, a vision appearing in dreams, and be reborn on Ningen-do – all at the same time – and repeat the process yet again. A whirlwind of shards of the self, reflections in a million broken mirrors cascading through time.

   The Meditations of Unity strengthen those links. They prevent the fragmentation of the spirit under the stresses of death and rebirth. While the mind and body will still need training to use the remembered abilities, a newly reborn practitioner of the Meditations has a massive advantage over those who must begin their training from scratch.

   Unfortunately, this is a very unnatural turn of affairs. There may be nothing more frustrating than to remember clearly what must be done, but to have to spend months or years waiting for your new body to develop enough to properly focus it’s eyes, to digest solid foods, and to control it’s bowels – and only then to face the daunting task of training its neural network to walk and speak again – and THEN to work for years to remaster the techniques that are so clear in your memory!

   There tend to be two major reactions to this sort of experience. Some people become impatient, driven, and strive endlessly to overcome the constraints of their new bodies. They become determined to overcome all opposition and to go forth and accomplish great things. Many will seek vengeance on whoever killed them last time and put them through this ordeal before it’s time. They use their power to take what they want, and demonstrate the superiority of their abilities. They become the Asuras, the Mortal Demon-Gods of the Ivory Kingdoms.

   Others become more philosophical. They accept their slow development, learn patience and acceptance, and allow their abilities to return at their own rate, without forcing them. These tend to become the Devas, the patrons and supporters of civilization in the Ivory Kingdoms, the guardians of stability – and the ones who have accepted that battles between the reincarnating demigodlings are both horrifically destructive and relatively pointless. Their goal is to transcend the great wheel, to achieve the ability to move throughout the multiverse without the need for constant death and rebirth.

   Some of each – particularly those who only mastered the Meditations of Unity in their immediately prior life – renounce the discipline, and go through their next childhood without such frustrations. They will still be exceptionally talented, and may pick up the Meditations with unnatural ease if they ever decide to study them again – but without the regular practice of the Meditations, such effects fade across lifetimes. One can return to normality.

   Others die before they can fully develop the meditations again – one reason why the Asuras-and-Devas-to-be usually take care not to display their powers too early – but such individuals, having practiced them over many lives, are almost certain to pick them up easily in a future life anyway.


The Meditations of Unity – an

Ivory Kingdoms advanced “Courtier” School:

   Requirements: Void 4, Meditation 4, Theology 4, at least two ranks in some other school.

First Technique: The Awareness of the Great Wheel.

   Your spirit may not be subdivided, despite the stresses of any form of rebirth (5) and – when you begin your next incarnation – you will clearly recall this one, allowing you to relearn your current schools without benefit of an instructor (10, -5 for having no direct applicability, net 5). You gain (Rank) free raises on Meditation rolls (5), gain the “Sensitive” Psychic Power thanks to your limited multidimensional awareness (3), and learn two level one Mudra of your choice, although their use still requires a Meditation skill of 3+ (2).

Second Technique: The Boundless Strengths Within

   In your next life, you will not need to pay experience to redevelop techniques from this lives in which your practiced the Meditations of Unity, although you must attain a high enough rank to have technique slots available (10, -5 for having no direct applicability, net 5) and gain double the Style bonuses of the Meditation skill (5). You learn two Rank-2 and two Rank-3 Mudra of your choice, although their use still requires a Meditation skill of 6+ and 9+ respectively (10).

Third Technique: The Manifestation of the Divine Essence

   As a unified entity, you gain partial Immunity to the normal restrictions on learning techniques: you may learn two techniques per rank instead of one per rank (10). Knowing the unreality of inury, you may subtract your Willpower from any wounds you take to a minimum of 0 (5) and recover (Void) wounds per hour (5).

   According to legend, there is Hidden Fourth Technique in the Meditations of Unity: The Opening of the Ways. It provides +3K0 Bonus Dice which count as being skilled for Meditation (6), and access to additional Mudra – one each of Ranks 1-3 (6) and two of Rank 4; The Paths of the Void and The Recreation of the Self (8). Between them, those two Mudra may indeed provide freedom from the Great Wheel. Unfortunately, there are no known practitioners of the fourfold way to ask.

   If there is a fifth technique, no one knows what it might be.

   Overall, the Meditations of Unity are only a moderately useful school for your current incarnation. The ability to double up on techniques is very nice at higher levels – but this time around you’ll still have to pay for them and you’re investing three techniques in getting that ability. If you happen to be rank five when you acquire it, that means that you’ll now have ten technique slots – three of them devoted to a not especially helpful school. You’ll have spent 75 XP, and spent all your time since Rank 2 with greatly inferior techniques, to qualify for a couple of extra techniques now – which you still have to pay for.

   So it’s just lovely for your NEXT incarnation – but how do you create someone who is CURRENTLY an Asura or Deva?

   Actually, that’s pretty simple.

  • You need an Ally or Allies (your own prior existence, possibly in various aspects) with enough Influence to bestow Access to “a school or two” – invariably including the Meditations of Unity and at least one, and possibly two, other schools (10), Immunity to the normal experience-point costs of learning said schools (10), five 2-point Knacks (in Meditation and four skills related to the schools it teaches, 10), and Immunity to the normal restrictions on learning techniques: may learn two techniques per rank instead of one per rank (10). Now, that’s eight points worth of Influence alone (requiring you to buy this ally at least twice, since four is the upper limit), and your own prior existence is definitely at the Major Eccentricity level (+2 points), and definitely went to a GREAT deal of trouble to help you (+2 points). That’s 16 points worth of Advantages right there.
  • Out of game, you’ll also have to persuade the game master to let you take that little monstrosity of an advantage.
  • You’d also have started off well before normal adulthood – a penalty of at least 20 points out of your initial 60 for a Deva, and possibly up to 50 points worth (the penalty for starting off as a small child) for an Asura.
  • A few bonus dice, secrets, and languages are probably in order as well – if you have any points left to spend at this point.

   As a practical matter, most Devas and Asuras are fairly quiet until they manage to reach rank four or so – at which point they’ll have eight techniques, normally including the complete Meditations of Unity for next time around. Really energetic ones can manage it by the time they’re twelve or so, ten or so if they’re willing to take some serious risks. That’s less uncommon than you’d think: proper caution and consideration of the possible consequences is also a function of mental maturity – just like learning to walk. A child is still a child, and inclined to immature behavior, no matter how powerful an Asura or Deva they may be.

   Unsurprisingly, the practice of the Meditations have had some pretty drastic effects on the societies of the Ivory Kingdoms. They still have gods, ancestors, and so on – not everyone who becomes powerful practices the Meditations – albeit not nearly so many of them. They also have quite a few really high-powered essentially unkillable individual demigodlings wandering about – many of them still pursuing quarrels that have come down through a dozen incarnations. It is not without reason that the Asuras are referred to as Demon Gods.

Federation-Apocalypse Log 36a: The Mecha Debating Society

   With the last of it’s internal checkups finally completed – a few things had had to wait until a hot drop for final testing – Mirage turned it’s internal sensors to a full pre-combat evaluation of it’s pilots, in case medical attention was needed later. There was no sign of serious opposition, and there was still 200 miles to go to the drop zone – plenty of time.

   It didn’t take it long to discern that Jaiden was about a month along in pregnancy.

   That was just WRONG. You DIDN’T take pregnant women into combat. For that matter, wasn’t she too young to either be taken into combat OR to be pregnant? Comparing the detailed scan to the medical files – now that that subprogram had been activated – certainly matched an adolescent much better than a mature woman! The Mirage had sort of assumed that she – and the cadets – were older than they looked, or they wouldn’t be allowed into the military – but if they were disregarding the regulations about pregnant women in combat zones, what else was being disregarded? This was simply unacceptable!

   The Mirage promptly registered a protest. The resulting eruption rapidly went downhill…

   Jarvian diverted almost totally into a “why didn’t you tell me!” routine, relieved only slightly by “I don’t believe in fathering bastards!” and an immediate contradictory “but I’m not READY to get married!” and “How could this happen!” (On that, the files were fairly clear; they’d started sleeping together in Samurai Jack world). Jaiden explained that he’d wanted an heir, and so she was bearing a child for him – and that she had intended to tell him in a week or two – and if he hadn’t meant to impregnate her, why hadn’t he either been using contraception or asking her to do so? She knew what that would result in, didn’t he? Then she wound up shapeshifting to illustrate a point, which sent both Jarvian and the Mirage into even worse confusion. Neither of them had ever actually seen one of the Thralls do that before – although they had been TOLD that some of them were in bird-form once or twice, they’d never actually been around to see it happen). The fact that she knew it was a boy (if he wanted a girl they’d have to try again in a year or so) was also diverting, at least to Jarvian.

   The Mirage kept talking about regulations, and her being underage, and overriding to take her back to a safe location now that it had pilot-override authority. The other Thralls/Cadets got in on it, pointing out that this wasn’t “combat”, or even really risky, it was more like kicking over sandcastles defended by hermit crabs – and since the piloting was neural-input did they have to stay in human form? Could they play with making trick shots with the weapons? If Jarvian was fussing over Jaiden being pregnant did he want to impregnate one or both of the other girls as well? That got back into bastards possibly usurping legitimate heirs, and social classes, and whether or not the Cadets – ages 12-14 – were adult.

   They insisted that they were, on the grounds that – at least on Baelaria – 12 was adult and old enough to marry or enlist in the military – and some upper-class men took lower-class mistresses that were even younger. Jarvian joined the Mirage in insisting that they were NOT adults at that age, and if he’d known they were that young he’d NEVER have taken them into something risky. Jarvian preferred a MINIMUM of 17, maybe 16 if you forged some paperwork (that notion set off the Mirage again), to which the Cadets responded by pointing out that they were far less vulnerable than Jarvian OR the Mirage was (both of whom could really die) – whereupon they proposed getting out and dealing with some Battlemechs personally; if they levitated up to the cockpit, used a slap mine to pop the hatch, and pulled the pilot out and beat him or her up, it should be easy.

   This got diverted to whether or not someone who owned five of the most powerful war machines in this end of the galaxy was “nobody special”, and as to whether his own powers and associates qualified him as “special” – which turned into a discussion of just what military organization, if any, they were actually a part of – and of what regulations (if any) they were functioning under, and whether or not some “Samurai” had kept mistresses – and if he didn’t want the kid, they could just encourage him to sign up with Kevin later, which would get him useful powers, a guarantee of survival, and the freedom of the Manifold, yet still keep him out of the way until long after all his speculative “legitimate heirs” to come were long dead of old age – and it all threatened to become a complete and tangled morass.

   OK, it was too late for “threatened”. It had become a complete and tangled morass quite some time ago.

   Jarvian decided that he was going to have a SERIOUS TALK with Kevin! The Cadets were astoundingly talented, but he would definitely prefer some OLDER candidates – or maybe even some normal human beings!

   The Mirage concluded that Jaiden was going straight to an appropriate medical facility, whether she or Jarvain liked it or not. Pregnancy was ALWAYS a good reason for a through checkup, at least by a dedicated medical computer and preferably by a human specialist as well. Underage pregnancies were known to be ESPECIALLY risky in any case! The other children need psychiatric evaluation as well! They ALL seemed to consider themselves adults, despite being obviously juvenile – and, even worse, they all acted like Jarvian had some sort of right to put them at risk, to their obedience, and even to their bodies! Children that age should (ok, there wasn’t much in the files except… Ok…) be in school, not piloting war machines into battle! The use of child soldiers were against the law, several major treaties, and the universal conventions on civilized warfare!

   The other AI’s, far more limited than the Mirage – if only due to the fact that, lacking souls, they couldn’t see beyond their programming – saw nothing much wrong. Jaiden should, indeed, be removed from combat – but if the Commander said that the Cadets were old enough, and so did the Cadets, presumably the situation had been vetted before they’d been given piloting authorizations. If the commander now felt that they were too young – well, that could be checked after the mission, but it was a well-documented effect. A certain percentage of commanders who were leading new recruits into action would become maudlin, or even irrational, about how young they were. It usually resulted in an on-leave binge if there were any casualties and a need for counseling after the war, but rarely had any real effect on command efficiency.

   Taking out most of the major opposition, and capturing most of the mech pilots – although there would have to be some small-scale ground operations to take out dug-in pirates – wound up being distinctly anticlimatic. They were grossly outranged, outgunned, outarmored, and – from the point of view of the Mirage and the supporting “modern” vehicles on Jarvian’s side – were practically immobile. Basically a targeting test.

   This entire exercise was not turning out at ALL like what Jarvian had had in mind.

The Return of Marty

   Today it’s a possible upgrade for Marty, for the Federation-Apocalypse game. This version presumes that he has at least 2/3’rds as many experience points as Kevin, and will have accepted a bit of physical enhancement courtesy of Kevin’s transformation powers. Note that this version is using two fairly powerful relics, and therefore is an EXTREMELY dangerous melee combatant.


Martin “Marty” Tabard Jr (Possible Update):

+1 ECL “Race”: Cartoonified (Toon) “Pureblooded” Human (58 CP)

  • Fast Learner/Specialized in Skills: +2 SP/Level (6 CP).
  • +4 Intelligence (Normally 24 CP, reduced to 12 CP by world laws).
  • +2 to any one attribute (normally 12 CP, reduced to 6 CP by world laws).
  • Immunity/Aging (can expect to live almost indefinitely, uncommon / minor / major, 3 CP).
  • Grant of Aid: May heal 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 points of attribute damage OR one negative level once per three levels per day or part thereof, 6 CP), with both Regenerative options (6 CP) and +8 Bonus Uses (12 CP). In core, this requires several hours per use unless the user spends a magic point.
  • Extraordinary Returning (Specialized, Requires being “animated” with standard cel-based or 3D animation tools) (3 CP). Most toons—Marty included—are unaware that they have this ability. They have trouble thinking of themselves as creations. It would take a “mundane” friend thinking, “Hmm, that guy was a lot like a cartoon character. I wonder what happens if we base a cartoon on him?” for anyone to discover it.
  • Innate Enchantment: All spells Personal Only: Rubber Fall (resembles Feather Fall, but you have to peel yourself off the ground, 1400 GP), Regenerate Light Wounds (1/Round, up to 20 points/level/day maximum, 1400 GP), Cure Light Wounds (1d8+1 1/level/day as needed, 1400 GP), Immortal Vigor I (+12 + 2x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP), and Void Sheathe (may store a single weapon in “nowhere” and pull it out as needed, half cost due to single weapon restriction, 350 GP). 5950 GP total, 7 CP.
  • Template Disadvantage: Insane (most toons are blasé, even bored, in even the most dangerous and deadly situations, -3 CP).

   Attributes: Strength 21 (25)/+7 (DR 5/-), Dexterity 26 (28)/+9, Constitution 21/+5 (5 magic points), Intelligence 18/+4, Wisdom 14/+2, and Charisma 16/+3 (6 free contacts). Rolled Attributes: 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

   Available Character Points: +10 CP Disadvantages (Compulsive Lechery, Alcohol Dependency and History (of character and homeworld), +2 CP/Level Duties (works for Amarant Solutions), +12 CP (L1 and L3 Feats) +48 CP (level one base) + 58 CP (experience) = 134 CP. 134 Spent.

Basics (21 CP):

  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +0 (0 CP) + 5 (Con) +1 (Morale) = +6
    • Reflex +2 (6 CP) + 9 (Dex) +1 (Morale) = +12
    • Will +1 (3 CP) + 2 (Wis) +1 (Morale) = +4
  • Hit Dice: L1-3d8/21 HP (12 CP) +2d6/12 HP (Magic) +25 (Con Mod x 5) +30 (Smartclothes) = 88 (66 in Core and no-magic realms).

Combat Information (34 CP):

  • Proficiencies: All Simple and Commando Weapons (Garrotes, Pistols, Shortswords / Combat Knives, Etc) (12 CP, -8 from Dex = 4 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP).
  • Move: 30 ft (Base) + 10 (Genes) +30 (Light Foot) +30 (Personal Haste) = 100
  • Initiative: +9 (Dex)
  • BAB: +2 (12 CP) +5 BAB specialized in Knives and Shortswords (15 CP). Net BAB +2, +11 with Knives and Shortswords.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) + 9 (Dex) + 2 (Wis, per world rules) +4 (military smartclothes) +4 (Shield) +1 (Natural) = 30.
  • Damage Reduction 5/- (Strength) + 4/- (Smartclothes) = 9/- versus both physical and energy damage.

Usual Weapons:

  • +3 keen knife: +11 (BAB) +3 (Magic) +9 (Dex) +1 (Morale) +2 (Martial Art) +4 (Int) = +30/+30 (Personal Haste)/+25/+20 to Hit, Damage 1d4 (Base) +7 (Str) +4 (Int) +3 (Magic) +1 (Morale)+5d6 (Sneak Attack) = 1d4+15+5d6 Sneak Attack. With Crushing and Hammer +35 to Hit, Damage 76 + 120 if Sneak Attack applies. Crit 17-20, Range Increment 100 ft (Magical) or 10 ft (thrown).
  • Necktie (as improvised garrote) +2 (BAB) +9 (Dex) +1 (Morale) = +12, 1d8 (Base) +7 (Str) +4 (Int) +1 (Morale) = 1d8+12 silencing nonlethal, 20/x2.
  • Slugthrower pistol: +2 (BAB) +4 (Smartlink) +9 (Dex) +1 (Morale) = +16, 2d6 ballistic +1 (Morale), Crit 20/x2, 40 ft range increment., 25 round magazine, 2 lb.
  • Plasma pistol: +2 (BAB) +9 (Dex) +1 (Morale) = +12, 2d10 +1 (Morale), Crit 20/x2, 40 ft range increment, 50 shot magazine, 2 lb, can be used as a tool.

   Usual Gadgets (17): Military Smartclothes (3) with Exoskeleton (1) and +30 HP (3), Masterwork Knife (1), Slugthrower pistol with concealable and improved accuracy options (1), old-style notebook computer (1), old-style cell phone (1), garrot-functional necktie (1).

   The old-style notebook computer and old-style cell phone are useless in Core Earth, but function just fine in any world at a 21st-century tech level.

Purchased Abilities (57 CP):

  • Augmented Bonus (6 CP): May add Int Bonus to Str Bonus for melee combat purposes.
  • Dimensional Adaptation (3 CP): Double Enthusiast (Specialized, “Identities” skill only; Corrupted, Only reduces the cost of identities he actually establishes, only changes in new world). All roles effectively L4 for one skill point each.
  • Finesse (6 CP): May replace Str with Dex for melee attack rolls.
  • Fortune (Evasion) (6 CP): Takes no damage from area attacks on a successful Reflex save.
  • Improvise Weapon (3 CP)
  • Martial Arts (6 CP): Inflicts 1d6 when unarmed, counts as an armed attacker.
  • Reflex Action/Combat Reflexes Variant (6 CP): Gets 9 Attacks of Opportunity.
  • Block/Melee (6 CP): May spend an Attack of Opportunity and make a DC 20 Reflex Save to reduce the damage from a melee attack by 60 points.
  • Internal Transformation Shapeshift/Leopard Genegrafts (9 CP): Leopard Attribute Modifiers (Str +6, Dex +8, Con +4, +10 Move, +1 Natural Armor, +8 to Acrobatics and Jump, +4 to Stealth, Low-Light Vision, and Scent), Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, Variants (Human Appearance). Specialized: Leopard Form Only, Corrupted: Cannot actually Change Forms (27 CP base, net cost 9 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast (6 CP), Specialized in Relics, Corrupted (must have someone able to make relics to assist him in redirecting the points). Provides 6 CP worth of Relics.

Current Relics:

   Blademaster’s Ring (3 CP Relic): Innate Enchantment. All spells level one, caster level one, personal-only where applicable. Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic (Common/Minor/Epic, Specialized in protecting the user’s Innate Enchantments only, 9 CP),

  • Rogue’s Sure Eye (+2D6 Sneak Attack for three rounds, 1400 GP)
  • Inspiring Word (+1 Morale Bonus to Damage, Saves, Checks, and Attacks, 1400 GP)
  • Light Foot (Transmutation. The user becomes extremely light on his or her feet,gaining a +30 circumstance bonus on his or her ground movement speed a +10 circumstance bonus on jump checks, as well as DR 10 versus Falling Damage [only], for 1d6+2 rounds, 1400 GP).
  • Personal Haste (+1 Attack when making a full attack, +30 Enhancement bonus to movement rates, 2000 GP).
  • Blade Mastery (+4 Competence Bonus to BAB with Blades [swords and knives], 1400 GP).
  • Ranged Strike (Allows the user to “fire” melee attacks with a 100′ range increment for the next 3 rounds, using the same statistics, 1400 GP).
  • Shield (+4 Shield bonus to AC, negates Magic Missiles. 2000 GP).

   Anime Blade Belt (3 CP Relic): Enhanced Strike (Crushing and Hammer) with +1 1/2 x [Dex Mod] Bonus Uses Each (Usable every round, 30 CP), plus Block/Arcane (6 CP), both Specialized (only usable with Knives and Shortswords, half cost).

   Actually, that’s fairly overwhelming: it might be better to use some other kind of relic – unless, of course, the group is up against some major military vehicles or something.

Skill Points

   22 CP +24 (Int) +12 (Race) +6 (Neural Enhancer) = 64 SP. 53 Spent.

Broad Skills (All +4 Int, +1 Morale, 31 SP):

  • Physical Skills (13 SP): Acrobatics (Dex) +23 (1 SP +9 Dex +8 Genes), Blood Blade Technique +16 (3 SP +8 Dex), Core Earth Technology +10 (1 SP +4 Int), Gadgets +14 (1 SP +8 Dex), Stealth +23 (1 SP +9 Dex +4 Genes +4 Gear)
  • Knowledge Skills: Business (Int) +15 (6 SP +4 Int), Computer Operation +11 (2 SP +4 Int), Electronics Operation +10 (1 SP +4 Int)
  • Perception Skills: Listen +13 (2 SP +2 Wis +4 Gear), Sense Motive +13 (6 SP +2 Wis), Spot +14 (3 SP +2 Wis +4 Gear)
  • Other Skills: Gadgetry +15 (1 SP +9 Dex), Identities +10 (1 SP +3 Cha), Wealth/Core Earth +22 (2 SP +3 Cha +10 Dangerous Part-Time Job +2 GM Bonus).

Narrow Skills (All +4 Int +5 Training, +1 Morale, 22 SP):

  • Physical Skills: Climb +22 (1 SP +7 Str +4 Gear), Drive/Automobile +20 (1 SP +9 Dex), Golf +20 (1 SP +9 Dex) Jump +36 (1 SP +7 Str +8 Genes +10 Magic), Stealth +29 (2 SP + 9 Dex +4 Genes +4 Synergy), Pilot/Flit +20 (1 SP +9 Dex)
  • Knowledge Skills: (All +4 Int, +14 Total Base): Battling Business Regulations +15 (1 SP), Battling Business World New York City +15 (1 SP), Close Combat Tactics +15 (1 SP), Core Earth New York City +15 (1 SP), Business Administration +17 (3 SP), Sports Betting +15 (1 SP)
  • Other Skills: Bargaining +14 (1 SP +3 Cha), Bluff +14 (1 SP +3 Cha), Carousing +14 (1 SP +3 Cha), Diplomacy +15 (2 SP +3 Cha), Intimidation +14 (1 SP +3 Cha), Public Speaking +14 (1 SP +3 Cha)

   +3 Specialities (1 SP Each); Gadgets/Smartclothes

Blood Blade Technique (Dex)

  • Requires: Weapon Finesse (Dagger) or equivalent point buy
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Synergy 3 (Disguise and Stealth x2)
  • Advanced Techniques: Sneak Attack 3 (+3d6), and Master Technique: Quick Draw
  • Occult Techniques: Serpent Strike (Con), Light Foot, Vanishing, and Ki Focus
  • Blood Blade Techniques Known: Attack 2, Synergy/Stealth x2, Sneak Attack 3, Quick Draw

Package Deal: Veteran Agent for the House of Roses:

  • Privilege: Access to military-level hardware and vehicles. Corrupted/access is limited by what the organization decides that a particular mission calls for (2 CP).
  • Immunity: Neural Enhancer can only be taken away by special surgery or by the use of spells or psychic powers of level 4+ (Uncommon/Minor/Minor, 2 CP)
  • Relic/Neural Enhancer (2 CP): +6 Skill Points (1 CP) and Awareness (suffers no defensive penalties when surprised, retains Dex bonus when flat-footed or attacked by invisible opponents, no save penalties versus surprises, 1 CP).
  • Enthusiast: Specialized, only changes with access to appropriate skill programs (1 CP).
  • Favors/House of Roses: Specialized, only available in pursuit of assigned mission or to maintain the integrity, secrets, and reputation of the House (1 CP).

Bonus Abilities (as designated by the game master: no cost)

  • Mystic Link (Communication) (Normally 6 CP): Marty may sense his boss, Peter Leland, wherever he is and may communicate with him across dimensions.
  • Privileges (Normally 6 CP, in this case only applies to Battling Business World, where he rarely is): Wealthy, with a battle sedan and nice apartment in. Licensed to practice battling business (law enforcement in other worlds may find this license amusing).
  • Reputation (Normally 6 CP, free because earned): In Battling Business World, Marty Tabard is known across its New York City business community as an up-and-coming corporate raider. He’s also known among its Blood Blade Technique practitioners as someone to trust. Finally, he has a reputation as an eccentric businessman in Core Earth’s United States.

Contacts (6 free, 2 acquired in play; 2 dropped for House of Roses package)

  • Officer Dulandal, London police officer in Potterworld.
  • Peter Leland, CEO of Amarant Solutions and Marty’s direct superior.
  • Johnson, old fraternity friend and battling business scion.
  • Olivia Patterson, a sociologist and House of Roses agent researching Toonworlds.
  • Derek Stone, Blood Blade Technique master.
  • Taraq, Londinium mobster in Baelaria.

   Kevin will be perfectly happy to supply a couple of female Thralls – Elerra and Minel – to serve as personal assistants. Both look like lovely young elves (dark and high) in “human” form, Kevin would suggest that Marty keep them in ferret-form in his pockets to heal and enhance him while he’s out and about. What Marty does with them the rest of the time is entirely up to him.

   Elerra has 32 Power, 10 Mana, Reality Editing, and Ki Block. She can cast second-level spells at the usual effective caster level of three, using Divination (for example, various detects, a +10 Competence Bonus to a skill), and Transmutation (for example, +4 attribute boosters), and Evocations. Her Witchcraft talents are Witchcraft Talents: Dreamfaring, Elfshot, Glamour, Hand of Shadows, Healing, The Inner Eye, and Witchsight. She is a skilled masseur, sketch artist, and dancer. She has standard Thrall abilities (being re-summonable if killed, having a mental communications link with Marty, shapeshifting, decent combat statistics, and being a good servant / concubine) otherwise.

   Minel has 31 Power, 9 Mana, Spell Enhancement, and the Vanishing Technique. She can cast first-level Abjuration (protective), Necromancy, and Illusion spells at the usual caster level three. She can Create Relics, has the same Relic Enthusiast package as this version of Marty. Her Witchcraft Talents are Dreamfaring, The Hand of Shadows, Healing, Infliction, Shadowweave, Witchfire, Witchsight. She is a skilled smith, mechanic, and musician. She has standard Thrall abilities (being re-summonable if killed, having a mental communications link with Marty, shapeshifting, decent combat statistics, and being a good servant / concubine) otherwise.

Shadowrun Penumbra: Primitive Magic

   Here are a few speciality magical skills from the dimension-hopping Shadowrun Campaign. In this case, they were the arts practiced by a stone age shaman of the People of the Hawk. Thanks to their being less specialized than the seven modern magical skills, it proved possible (if expensive in terms of Karma and the buying of either special advantages or levels of initiation) for Iuri – and presumably other modern mages – to acquire Dreamquesting, Crafting, and Elementalism as non-exclusive magical skills  despite already having their usual allotment. As a knowledge skill, anyone can acquire Geomancy if they can find an instructor.

   For those using the Shadowrun: Penumbra magical system, a Primitive Mage, with full access to all three primitive magic skills would be a Class-B Magic-Wielder. Access to any one would be considered a Class-C Monomage or Talent.

Primitive Magic

   Magic has evolved. It reflects the minds of its users – and the steady march of progress has left it’s stamp on the minds of the world. Even the most primitive tribes no longer see spirits thrusting the sun above the horizon every morning. Still, primitive magic isn’t weak; it’s ties with the natural world grant it considerable power. It’s that its slow, somewhat unpredictable and sometimes dangerous to use. That’s why primitive magic was slowly abandoned in favor of the seven “modern” magical skills. The primitive magic skills shown below are lost arts in the world of 2060 and normally are not available during character creation.

   Dreamquesting is ancestral to Conjuration, Astral Access, and Thaumaturgy. The principle is simple: you have a problem, you probe the astral realms for a spirit that can deal with it, and you try to get it to help you.
   In practice it’s a bother. For dreamquesters, magical acts tend to be individualized adventures. Curing a sick kid may involve seeking out a spirit with healing powers and persuading it to help out, battling a plague spirit, finding a magical “herb” that embodies the spell you need, carrying the  child’s soul to the “well of life”, or whatever seems appropriate. One may fight, persuade, bargain with, or trick spirits, face weird riddle contests, undertake strange tests of worthiness and long journeys through mythic landscapes, and take a myriad of forms.  Time is subjective on a dreamquest: hours of trance may seem like weeks. Fortunately, being “defeated” on a quest simply hurls the quester back into his or her body. Perhaps even more fortunately, “great” spirits – entities such as; Death, Fate, Gaia, and major mythic Gods – are out of the reach of dreamquesters until they gain access to the metaplanes. In general, every time you seek a spirit, attempt to reshape the environment of a quest, or transform yourself in a quest, roll your skill – and knock one die off your magic pool until you rest.
   Dreamquesters may develop close relationships with one spirit per level of skill. Such friendly spirits may be called on for minor aid appropriate to the spirit up to once per session each without a quest.  Since a quest normally requires hours or even days this can be very useful. If dice are needed for such effects, roll (2x Skill Level)d6. Questers don’t suffer essence loss and can’t “lose their bodies” while on a quest; the separation of spirit and body is incomplete.

   Crafting is ancestral to Enchantment, Witchcraft, and Enhancement. Unlike those modern skills, Crafting can’t provide things with new abilities and properties; it can only grant bonuses to those they already have.  You can’t heal an injured friend with it, but you can use it to enhance a handful of medicinal herbs and use  those.
   Crafting provides a “Pool” of crafting dice equal to (2x the user’s skill level) which may be augmented, but not more than doubled, with dice from the user’s magic pool. The user may invest up to 3 of those dice (at one die per hour of work) in improving the attributes of an item. For example, a crafter could put runes on an item to make it hit harder (adding dice to the user’s attack), hammer designs into armor to make it more protective (adding to the wearer’s body dice against attacks), or even make a talisman to aid another magical skill.
   Groups of up to 7 simple items may be given a +1d enchantment at a cost of 2 dice from the pool. For example, you might bless a group’s bows.
   Fast enchantments are possible, but are only 50% efficient and are limited to a maximum of +2 dice.
   Craft effects may be made permanent, and the pool dice freed up, for 6 Karma per die. Sadly, the effects of such items don’t stack with each other.

   Elementalism is ancestral to Sorcery, Witchcraft, Conjuration, and Theurgy. It allows the user to tap into any kind of magic he or she knows how to use (i.e. has a special knowledge skill in, such as “Healing Magic” or “Weather Magic”).
   In general: 1) Pick a field. Reduce your knowledge skill level by one until you have a few hours to spend on rebuilding your magical link. 2) Roll Elementalism at a target number set by the GM to try and shape that raw magic into the effect you want, and 3) roll dice equal to your magic rating to see how powerful your effect is when unleashed.
   Sadly, if you don’t succeed on the Elementalism roll, the magic is still released – it’s just that it doesn’t do what you wanted it to.
   Elementalism does allow the user of the magic pool to augment the elementalism test, the casting test, or for spell defense as usual.
   An elementalist may spend 3 Karma to name and establish a specific effect. This eliminates the need for an elementalism check, but not the need to reduce the relevant knowledge skill or the final magic level roll. An elementalist may not establish move than (Int) effects.

   Geomancy is the fine art of occult landscaping and architecture: creating areas and structures that channel the earth’s innate mana into intentional effects. While this allows for the creation of powerful, sustained, large-scale, magic without direct strains on the user, there may be a strain on the local economy (OK! I’ll need about a million tons of stone piled up into a pyramid right here!) – and geomantic magics are neither fast nor portable.  They fell out of use as more sophisticated arcane techniques were developed and their last remnants appear today in the construction of Medicine Lodges and in the traditions of Feng Shui – albeit in degenerate forms. As a knowledge skill Geomancy may be practiced by anybody – although those without astral senses suffer a +4 target number modifier.
   The elder elves know geomancy and used it to raise the barriers around the Tir’s. The younger ones in charge of security may not be entirely happy to see the rest of the world tinkering with geomancy.

   While primitive magic is occasionally a useful auxiliary talent for a modern mage, it’s at its best when more powerful and reliable magic isn’t available. It’s also useful for minor mystics: in a primitive setting it may not be at all uncommon for relatively ordinary tribe members to dabble in magic.

Federation Apocalypse Session Log 36: New Assignments

   Gantrithor the Balrog got a lot smaller – and less shadowy – upon his arrival in the Forgotten Realms. A Balrog should fit in well enough in the Underdark, so evidently Middle-Earth was one of the realms that amplified particular roles. Should have expected that from the way the one kid got the One Ring and the others various fellowship roles without even trying.

   He was still a burning demonic-looking thing though – and very much annoyed with his current predicament – not to mention that everyone else had changed confusingly.

   “Is this some kind of trick you have done to try and weaken me? Foolish people to think that this would stop me! Wait, what has happened to all of you?”

   “Hey, this sometimes happens when you cross realms. You get used to it.”

   “How long have you been being a Balrog anyway?”

   (Gantrithor was a bit taken aback by that question…) “I have been this way since before the Silmaril war long ago”.

   Kevin cheerily informed him that “Well, after all, Gandalf is supposed to have spent 2000 years in Middle-Earth, and was a Maiar before that. I dropped in, became Gandalf, and left the role behind, all in about four hours – although I haven’t been by the Silmaril wars in nearly twenty years myself. Come to think of it, these days I’d probably get cast as Melkor”

   Gantrithor found all of this pretty confusing – but found THAT hard to believe.

   The group suggested that he test his current powers while they were traveling: some would be his, and some would vary with the current role (which looked to be a demon of some sort).

   Kevin left a Thrall to keep an eye on him, help out if necessary, and report back on what he could and could not do.

   Not too unexpectedly Gantrithor found some serious surprises and disappointments.

   Meanwhile, as the group traveled – heading for the Drow city – Marty took charge of running the caravan and navigation while Kevin started sending some orders and gathering information.

   The computers reported up to 30 million youngsters and adults in Core who had been exposed to weaponized Memes, although the number who were badly enough affected to have been taken into custody awaiting magical or psychic treatment was only about two million (the system was having a hard time catching partial exposures, although the computers had been getting more aggressive about psychological screening of those suspected of being infected).

   Now, lets see… the Solar System supported 15 billion, the Hyerdahl System supported nearly 12 billion, Gutahbend 10, Mu 9.5, and Seilichspeur 8.5 billion. Below that, Anbetsu, Gelderlich, Ksahko, Daimi, Adama, Rifaan, Curmac, Vriksha, Tellus, Uhran, and Kurk supported some 45 billion between them. Of the 204 officially colonized worlds, 11 had been abandoned to the Ouratha (or just to lousy conditions) and a few holdouts – and the other 52 billion people were scattered across the remaining 177 worlds of the Federation, ranging from a few worlds on the border of major world status on to a dozen or two which had only a few hundred thousand each. About 20 carefully-placed gates should give him access to a total of about 108 billion, and the vast majority of those infected.

   He was REALLY going to need some staff. Phantasms were fine for routine stuff, but tended to get flabbergasted whenever things went off-track. Once he had enough, they could start bringing the infected through to cure them and start issuing permission for children and youngsters from core to visit. Well, there were 80 or so Thralls currently without urgent assignments or already assigned to core – and Ryan had given him some ideas. He’d never really considered the nonhumans before – there weren’t really that many of them – but he had plenty of resources now. He could set the Thralls to buying up as many of the obedience-programmed Neodogs as possible – especially the young ones – and to broadcasting a general summons into the Earth’s oceans. There were close to a hundred million obedience-programmed neodolphins out there – after all, it wasn’t like anyone really needed them for anything – and he could simply give them all midrange Identities in Kadia with a little shapeshifting and other powers. That would give him a ready-made staff, whether he could recruit any of them as Thralls or not. If he could recruit some as Thralls, he’d just give them anthropomorphic base forms and block shapeshifting to full human – and he’d have some Thralls that were legally property under current Core law (and had started that way), at least until they paid off their indenture as usual. That would give them a chance at freedom, satisfy the needs of the house and military, and should either get people used to the idea of sentient, human-like, beings as property or provoke discussion of the whole issue of what made creatures property and blur the lines. Either way, since the status quo wasn’t what he wanted, it would be to his advantage. The ones he couldn’t recruit as Thralls could be general staff, help with the meme-infected, and enjoy the facilities themselves. If those worked out, he’d try bringing some other species up to neo-animal status and seeing what he could do with them. Maybe some big cats, or bears, or ferrets, or something.

   Oh yes: add a computer restriction and a formal warning; you had to be past the age of majority to leave the center regions for any of the lawless and computerless border zones, like the “Ice Age Hunters” primitive survival zone, or the “Shapeshifted Hunting” zones, or anything similar – and if you did head into one it was entirely at your own risk. You’d still wake up back at the mall if you were killed – but if you got tortured, eaten, enslaved, or whatever, that was your tough luck. He’d put a a similar set of restrictions on anyone who wanted to fight duels, or make silly bets, or anything like that too.

   The House called too (apparently the Military had not yet realized outside the laboratory that – given a good reason or a really urgent message – the Thralls could call Kevin just as he could call them): they wanted the entire group to lay low for a bit if possible – perhaps that was why they’d been so cooperative about a speculative trip into the Underdark. The House, unsurprisingly, felt that demonstrating the power to move a planet would draw far too much attention even if Ryan and ATE took most of the “blame”. It was a level of power that had not been demonstrated for several decades, and – in their opinion – was bound to draw unwanted attention to Core and to the associated parties.

   Meanwhile, Marty had been heading the group towards the Drow city they’d visited last time. The Drow, or Dark Elves, or whatever they were calling themselves would probably know what was up with the mind flayer city, it was a good place to trade, they had some contacts there, they might be able to get some enchantments and things done for the Thralls, they threw great parties, and the local women were extremely good-looking. No matter what, they’d probably wind up spending at least a few days there. There were invariably delays.

   The trip only took a few hours this time: the Moria gate was a lot closer than the Coral gate (and didn’t require life support) – but there were a lot of signs of battle throughout the tunnels. It looked like someone had been making lots of attacks using large numbers of slave species. There was no way to tell who owned them, but there were signs that the cities defenders were also involved in the fighting. Could be Mind Flayers, Vekxin, rival Drow, or other denizens of the Underdark. The place was a morass of hostility after all.

   The city itself was under siege; portions of the city were burning, there were too many dead bodies to count laying around, there was a heavily warded camp of attackers off to the right in the main cavern and the city to the left. The attackers looked like an army of drow with several hordes of slaves.

  Fortunately, everyone was regrouping at the moment. Oh that was right: the fool Godswar was still going on and the Mind Flayer city had been used as a pawn… No Thralls involved at the moment though. The communications-base was nearby, but Malfoy had simply been assisting the defenders to some extent without trying to get involved directly. The defenders had been helping them out with their mission from time to time. It looked like about… 50,000 attackers (80% slaves) and 80,000 defenders (40% slaves). That was quite a lot for the Forgotten Realms: populations weren’t normally all that high hereabouts…

   The besiegers camp showed some excessive positive-energy traces, but the divinations were just too limited to provide any details. Well, that could be constructs or something, but it probably meant that Vekxin’s agents were operating over there.

   “Oh, Gantrithor? You’ll probably like these: corrupted – if less than immortal – elves at war. They’re usually a matriarchy with lots of gratis evil. Centuries of artists have portrayed Drow as good-looking cheesecake into leather straps and dominance-stuff, so they’re generally an entire PG to X-Rated civilization – which is why adolescents like to hang around in the Underdark.”

   “Interesting, twisted elves that retain much of their original form, unlike the creations of Melkor – although it seems some have managed to purge themselves of the corruption”.

   They got emissaries from both sides. Preference went to the Defenders, since they’d been fairly friendly last time around.

   Goals: stop the nonsense, information on the Mind Flayer city, finding out what had happened in both cities after they’d left the last time, to get slaves if they needed them for trade, arrange for Marty’s party, get magical enchantments for the Thralls, collect any of Vekxin’s bunch who were with the attackers, not wasting too much time, and not getting killed.

   The emissary from the city was Dhoul, a magus in the church of Elistraee. It looked like this was indeed a part of the Godswar; Lloth had managed to either indispose or kill Elistraee, and with the entire pantheon of the dark elves dead or out of action save for Lolth, her priestesses were trying to consolidate control of the entire race. The attackers were the followers of Lolth with help from fortune hunters (from many races and places) and such – plus the usual army of slaves. The Mind Flayers weren’t involved; the destruction of their city had left them pretty scarce in the area. Of the outworlders, one seemed to be enhancing many of the others in some fashion, but he had been hard to pinpoint and take out. Another had been giving the attackers strange weapons and armor (apparently firearms and technological mockups of mithril or adamantine armor) that had proven most annoying – although such things were said to be available on the surface. They’d been making the walls almost useless.

   Well, that did sound like Vekxin, and probably the powerful mage who’d been doing those pesky timeslips. Well, they had been inclined to help the defenders anyway.

   The locals had had a few timeslips as well, which pretty well confirmed it.

   The emissary from the attackers was Presnell, in the service of the commander Gigmaril, here to attack and subjugate this city, and he was simply here to advise them that siding with the defenders – who had no divine magic to call on, and thus little hope of victory – would be foolish. If they helped with the attack, a share of the spoils would be in order. On the other hand, he confirmed that the attackers had quite a few near-unkillable, apparently-human or near-human youngsters, with reasonably good combat skills, skill at working in groups, and obscure motives, amongst their allies. He hadn’t been paying much attention to them, since he had more important things to pay attention to than the strange abilities of a human boy who could enhance otherwise mediocre fodder to special forces level.

   That was all Kevin really needed to hear.

   “Ah well. Oh yes – where are my manners? Refreshments!”

   Kevin conjured up a table, some chairs, drinks, snacks, and a battlefield-scale Stone Shaping effect (level three, +3 Mana, +7 area from Elven High Magic and Dominion; his local identity was just perfect for the occasional massive-area-of-effect stunt) to drop the relevant end of the cavern’s roof on the attackers camp.

   “Marty? You and the kids will need to handle Mr Mage here and any camp survivors: that kind of thing is tiring. The ones we’re here for can’t die, so we can dig them out at leisure”.

   “Right, got it!”

   Presnell found that pretty annoying – but apparently not either too much of a shock or much of a personal threat. That pretty much confirmed that he was either an avatar of Lloth [“My” general?], a simulacrum or projection (possibly of Merlin), had immortality arrangements in place (clones or something were most likely in the Forgotten Realms), or a follower of someone with an assured afterlife. No matter which, there wasn’t much point in fighting him, so they simply let him take his stuff and go. He vanished in a puff of pink smoke.

   Well, he might have just been a really good bluffer too, but they hadn’t thought of that at the time.

   Dhoul was rather impressed. There weren’t many mages with that kind of power, or the ability to bring it into play so quickly. He doubted that the attackers mages had either had enough power or time to respond. Still, it was obvious that Kevin would never make a good dark elf. They liked the slow approach to dealing with their enemies.

   While destroying the besieging army would probably only be a temporary break, even if there were no reinforcements for the attackers hidden in the nearby tunnel system (Dhoul had been keeping an eye out for that sort of thing – “although these damn tunnels make finding anything difficult” “Not from around here I take it? ‘These damn tunnels’ would never occur to an underdark native” “Ah, I let my act slip here for a moment didn’t I?”), it was still a substantial victory – and time for the priestesses to patch people up with first aid, since they had no divine magic to speak of. Since Marty was looking for a party, they’d throw a really good one for him – with lots of wine and food and beautiful, willing, dark elven women. Since they wouldn’t need any trade goods that they couldn’t get from the loot, they could afford to donate quite a few of the luxury goods they’d brought along anyway.

   The defenders helped round up the survivors, of which there were quite a few – 9,000 assorted slaves (mostly underdark races), 4,000 Drow (who would mostly become slaves: whether or not the new rulers objected, the society had no other method of handling thousands of unwilling captives), and 220 of Vekxins youthful minions (whom they made sure they kept incapacitated, no matter how much it hurt). There was a lot of magical loot as well, (although the defenders wanted most of the healing stuff), several sets of spellbooks – and not a single soul among the slaves (apparently any that had been had been hauled off before the battle began) and only 48 among the Drow – mainly priestesses and wizards, plus one weaponsmaster. All older unfortunately.

   Gantrithor had been bored at first, then shocked at the destruction, then gleeful at the destruction, then disappointed at the lack of large groups of survivors to put up a fight (“Sorry Gantrithor, we were in a rush”) – and then annoyed at the casual conversation about things he didn’t understand completely.

   Well, with any luck recovering 220 kids would please Dumbledore and calm the hysteria in core. Vekxin must have pushed it too far with the direct recruiting in Core: Kevin had been recruiting at Hogwarts for a bit over a decade, and it had never resulted in much fuss before – but he only got a modest number each year, not more than a hundred in a few weeks, and he fully explained in advance. Kevin shipped them back to Hogwarts while the going was good. They had virtually all of them from there, and probably most of the ones who’d come in from Core on that adventuring-lure – and he wanted to get them secured, patched up, and unaddicted before anything had a chance to go wrong.

   The party got pretty wild. Marty got extremely drunk and, along with some of the Thralls, took full advantage of various willing young dark elves and semi-willing slaves. Kevin made a note to come by and pick up the children later. Even if the new rulers didn’t see halfbreeds as automatic slaves, he had been able to buy a bunch of them on the last visit – and there would be plenty of residual prejudice. Marty would prefer his more mortal children raised in Core where it was safe anyway.

   Meanwhile, back on Ealor, the Singularites had been visiting Core and hunting for an Opener, or at least some Gatekeepers, of their own – and had found out just how rare (and thus expensive to hire) they were. One Gatekeeper out of every 46,000 people – most of them originating in Core. An estimate of somewhat under 1300 Openers spread over an estimated five trillion people. Roughly one in four billion – and almost all of them originating in Core.

   With enough training they just MIGHT be able to produce a Gatekeeper of their own, and they were trying to hire some on a permanent basis – but at the moment they were pretty dependent on the two youngsters Kevin had left with them. Unfortunately, the kids didn’t seem to be open to offers to change employers. They weren’t even charging for their services – although Kevin and company did seem to expect free technical support on that old military AI they’d picked up (which was doing some pretty odd things as well). Maybe Kevin could be convinced to hire them out on a regular basis.

   Besides: there had to be SOME sort of explanation of how Gatekeepers and Openers pulled their tricks. Once they had a theory, there would surely be some practical results – technological ways to do the same thing, or at least – for a start – effective methods of training them and amplifying their abilities! “Magic” it might be – but that had to be some sort of field-phenomena tuned by the central nervous system, even if the “soul” entered into it somehow. Godel might have proved that there would always be new phenomena to explain, but he’d also proved that – once observed – there were always terms in which they could be understood.

   The theorists moved into high gear when the reports that a pair of Openers and a couple of squads of Gatekeepers had moved a planet between universes came in. Even if they were merely acting as catalysts, the amount of energy involved in moving a world was astounding – and digging into the reports indicated that the gatekeepers had been kids a lot like the ones currently working for them – and that both Kevin and Marty had been involved. Apparently in a supporting role – but most of whatever had been involved simply hadn’t registered in the records.

   This Ryan fellow was definitely worth looking into as well. He already seemed to be using technology to amplify his abilities – which might be a better explanation for planet-moving than a crowd of talented children.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 35 Log: Bothering the Balrog

   Despite Marty’s belief that there was only one way to handle competition – beat the tar out of it – Kevin felt that it was time to give some attention to Vekxin and this “Rosary of Memory” thing. The battles in the underdark had turned into a sort of stalemate: The Thralls had persuaded 10 of the kids to come home, and captured 8 of them – out of the 125 Vekxin had run off with – and the authorities in Potterworld had picked up another 7, but that really wasn’t going well – and most of the 32 Thralls from Hogwarts has been killed at least once. It had apparently never occurred to them that their classmates might actually try to kill them at first.

   In a way that was a profit for him – once they’d been killed, reversing time to break the thrallbond would kill them if they refused to maintain it and snap back to his afterworld (not that most of them would probably have thought that it was a bad deal and opted out anyway) – but that really wasn’t an ideal way to go about it.

   Things were improving: he’d sent more thralls as reinforcements, and they’d gotten used to their powers and to working together, were more familiar with their opponents abilities – and had observed that Vekxin’s servants seemed to recover from even the worst mortal wounds, so they were no longer holding back in fights – but they just weren’t capturing their opponents at a reasonable rate. At least young Paul Malfoy’s girlfriend had been among the ones who’d been captured – and, either way, once they were cured of their positive-energy addiction they were invariably pretty pissed at Vekxin. (Hmm… there might be a few more recruits the next time Kevin visited Hogwarts: even if Vekxin had soured most of them on the entire idea, the Thralls might have won a few over, there would be other would-be rescuers who’d seen that it demonstratably both was working and wasn’t a bad deal – and that Dumbledore approved – and there were always the new classes. The ensouled kids who wound up sorted into Slythern – even if there weren’t very many – were almost always easy to recruit). Things blew over fast in the Manifold sometimes – even if they lingered for centuries other times.

   Anyway, they might just have to put it about that they’d recovered this “Rosary of Memory” thing – or come up with some sort of substitute or equivalent. With the entire Manifold for people to run away into, it was a lot easier to get them to come to you.

   Much more importantly, with some of Vekxin’s agents recovered and cured, they should be able to get a good description of the “Rosary of Memory” – or at least how they were going to recognize it – and information on where they thought they were likely to find it. They’d need that if they wanted to be convincing.

   So: the Rosary of Memory was supposed to be a focal point for the memories and psychic energies left behind as souls discarded roles and lives and took on new ones. Vekxin wanted to possess it and merge with it, allowing him to “transcend” his current existence. He knew that it was deep undergound and is protected by a terrible evil. It was described as a pool or fountain that gave off a glowing blue light with faint images shifting beneath the water’s surface. Those nearby tended to hear incoherent whisper and see visions of the dead – or possibly of their past lives.

   That fit the general description of the Well of Mimir, the Sagacious Tree, and a selection of other items. “Seeing the dead” wasn’t that big a trick in the Manifold – whether as memory-phantoms or by going and looking them up

   Still, the description seemed kind of familiar: a pool, deep underground and guarded by a terrible evil, a collection-point for discarded thoughts, incoherent mental whispers, things of the imagination – like Silmarils – and limited illusions. A high fantasy realm seemed likely – and the Underdark held the Coral/Underdark interface, a nearby Mind Flayer Brain Pool… and that pool of Jarvian’s in the old mine. That would, at least, explain why Vekxin was devoting so much effort to the Underdark – and why he was after the Thrall’s defensive zone there: Kevin had set up his secured communications center near the drow and mind flayer cities, since that was the area he was familiar with – and that was in their search zone. They might even believe that Kevin was after the same thing and was sitting on a probable location.

   Well, they’d always kind of assumed that they weren’t done with the Mind Flayers and the Drow. More importantly, even if they turned out to be on the wrong track, it seemed like a good place to set up a fake.

   They got into touch with Ithulsin at the House of Roses. He might have some information – and they could easily bribe him if necessary.

   He did want a bribe – but Kevin had originally intended to get him some cute drow and elven concubines and a nice estate just to demonstrate that being Drow was much more fun than being a Mind Flayer anyway, and that proved more than adequate. After all, all they really wanted was information – any rumors he might have heard about anything that answered to the description.

   Ithulsin had heard of such things, albeit mostly in legends. It was said that they occurred “naturally” in various hard-to-reach locales, places long since forgotten by everyone. There was a theory among the Mind Flayers that all such things might be linked together somehow, or even simply all be manifestations of the same fountain. The ill-prepared could be driven mad by the psionic emanations that such pools gave off. Still, whether or not such rumors had any fact behind them – or were even related to the Rosary of Memory or were some other item entirely – was hard to say.

   Kevin felt that such things were linked almost by definition – psychic energy didn’tt pay a lot of attention to distance, and Mana paid even less – and anywhere that was a collection point for psychic energy was likely to be forgotten, since thoughts about them were likely to be collected.

   Ilthulsin was surprised that he understood psionic theory surprisingly well.

   Kevin could detect a bit of pressure – or suction – (albeit ill-defined and hard to pinpoint) on his mental defenses while he considered the subject, which was a limited sort of confirmation anyway.

   The Underdark really did sound like just the place to find an upwelling of the Rosary. It also had lots of lost dark gods to manifest to defend the thing… They might be able to hit it from the backside if we passed through the black hole at the center of the negative plane – Kevin suspected that entropy might not apply in the Manifold, but that information and ideas could not be destroyed there, despite the negative plane. Unfortunately, they doubted that even they could survive taking that route.

   Vekxin probably had no idea what he was really getting involved with. A nexus like that would EAT a phantasm – just as it would have absorbed Arxus if they’d brought him too close. The fact that he’d been selective about his psychic-energy absorption had been the only thing that allowed him to maintain any kind of an identity without a soul.

   It was about time to leave Pictsome. It seemed to be in an acceptable orbit and they’d treated all the human victims of the radiation-flash (not too bad: most of them had been behind shielding anyway), and the puppies (the thralls took most of them), and the imported breeding stock. The local flora and fauna would take a few generations to sort out the genetic damage, but it would be an evolutionary boost in the long run anyway. The repeaters had all shut up now that they’d expended their Mana (much to Ryan’s relief). The Inquisitor and the Military Observers were all busy arguing with Ryan (who didn’t really want them involved), which should keep them off everyone else’s back – so it would probably be a good time to get out. Marty hated to explain and Kevin didn’t think explanations looked profitable at the moment, or at least not with the Inquisitor. He thought that the Military would already like to recruit for him, it was just politically awkward at the moment. The computers were already well aware that they’d showed up with more than a hundred gatekeepers – all about age 14 equivalent – anyway.

   Back on Ealor, the Mirage’s repairs were complete – and the techs had finished both the three new mechs and “upgrading” the Atlas (OK: they’d discarded the entire thing except for the ID plate and built a new Mech on roughly the same pattern). They weren’t really happy with the resulting design constraints, but it was what the customer had requested. The Atlas was mostly Wellstone framework, power plant, coolant systems, and laser weapons systems. Given the weight and thrust requirements, it couldn’t fly. It wasn’t something the Singularites would have taken into battle – but they followed a far more mobile and long-range doctrine and used nuclear or orbital weaponry when it was indicated. The Farslayer (optimized for long-range combat, and thus, of course, aerospace-capable), and the two Falconstrikes (light fighters fitted out for land and aerospace mobility, scouting, and hit-and-run combat) were ready as well.

   Jarvian assigned the heavier Mech’s to the two male Cadets – Taraq to the Atlas and Sorith to the Farslayer – while Kaliat and Pakria took the Falconstrikes. Sadly, they were a bit blank on naming them though… Well, they were from a steampunk world. Not too romantic about machinery and doubtless expecting them to blow up at any moment.

   Now he needed a target to raid – more or less as a test run and a chance for the cadets to practice under fire. A lightly-defended minor industrial world would be best, and would let him pick up some additional mech frameworks, ammunition, and supplies. It should be a serious test run, and that meant – with all due apologies – no supernatural interference from Kevin, Marty, or Smoke.

   Besides, he wanted to test his own command skills as well. It would be best to split up. If he was going to take and hold a planet, he’d want them – but not for this.

   There were plenty of choices, but it looked like a high-speed strike on Turwin – a light industrial world – would be best. He could afford a small dropship – just barely – but he’d have to rent space on a jumpship to get there. Still, that was par for the course on raids.

Fortunately there were plenty of ships for rent in the Imperium. Hopefully it would convert to a ship that would work locally on entering the Battletech sector of the galaxy.

It came close enough, thanks to the Cadet’s influence. It was still going to take a week to reach his target though.

Marty, Kevin, and the others decided to leave for the Underdark. Marty wanted to try trading as a cover again – it was just too convenient – and the house was willing to lend them the tinfoil hats again (evidently they were classifying this as a major push – and were after Vekxin too). It would have to be a pretty heavily protected caravan: they’d pushed things last time, and the place was a war zone now. They’d have to stick to worlds with a sizable ensouled population to avoid timeshifts though… Moreover, slaves weren’t really a high-enough value item to justify a heavily-guarded caravan at the moment and they didn’t have any really convenient source anyway. Hm. Wines, spices, exotic liqueurs, really fancy synthetic cloth (it should translate well), synthetic gems, drugs, and luxuries to trade for magical metals and gems and such? Maybe some minor magical weapons, and perhaps some unusual light sources. Just because they all had darkvision didn’t mean they liked seeing in black and white all the time – and not everyone had access to magic even in the Forgotten Realms.

As a diversion, he passed word around to the Drow, Deep Dwarves, Deep Gnomes, and other subterranean races: sizable bounties for Vekxin’s troops. They’d been being local pains anyway – while the Thralls had been helping the local defenders.

Apparently live capture wasn’t much of a worry: the empowerment effect Vekxin used infused his troops with so much positive energy that they were unable to die. If struck down they remained conscious and alive as they slowly healed. One kid, nearly sliced in half, agonized over several days as his body stitched itself together. Unfortunately, repeated self-healing tended to cause neurological damage – obsession, neural disorders, epileptic fits, and so on – due to the positive-energy overload. Unfortunately, they got their orders via telepathic sendings, so there was no good way to trace their command structure.

Well, that gave them protection from the local psychics and a diversion. They could easily stock up on high-value goods en route and take along a dozen or so Thralls as guards: all they needed was a route. They’d prefer to avoid near-empty realms like Coral to avoid timeslips – but at least some of Vekxins early recruits presumably had a more direct route from core, and there were probably local surface of the realms. They could just punch a new gate of course, but they wanted to keep a low profile after Pictsome.

Well, Vekxin was searching the Forgotten Realms, so he probably didn’t want to play with time there. It was impossible in Core, and probably in the Imperium. So: routes that stuck to well-populated universes…

The major routes included Core->Crusader->Lord of the Rings->Underdark (via Moria) and Cre->New Imperium->Classical Imperium->Sith Tomb->Underdark. Hm. Well, Lord of the Rings was pretty popular, so there were probably enough souls there to make it really hard to timeshift. Classical Star Wars was relatively unpopulated though, since as soon as you get off the plot (which people with souls tend to do) you wound up in the New Imperium. Moria it was. They could pick up stuff to sell in the New Imperium. They might have to dodge the Inquisitors though – they had been involved in the Hellstorm fiasco awhile back, and in moving a planet just now.

The house sent some other teams to the Underdark to try and cut off escape routes. Kevin made sure that all the thralls being taken had the fantasy training package, so they could call up their dragon-steeds if necessary.

So: Back through Crusader. Taking a caravan full of goods through Moria was going to be fun…

Getting to LOTR was easy enough: you just needed to hike up a mountain into the alps and wait for the scene transition – and for the roles. LOTR had some really strong ones… Some of the Thralls suddenly had bare feet (and one had a ring), one started walking on the snow, Kevin suddenly had a beard, Marty had a horn and a big sword, and so on… Botheration. They’d almost certainly have to fight the Balrog.

Well, getting into Moria was relatively easy, even if they did have to fight the pool-creature and felt compelled to quote a lot of dialog and make a lot of in jokes. Lets see… They had to hit the crypt, and then take an alternate route out – which would turn into the Underdark, which they’d enter at a run just a little way ahead of a group of orcs who’d be chasing them through a tunnel where the Balrog didn’t fit. They checked the book in the crypt – and found that the last bit diverged from the account pretty drastically. Written in blood, it read: “WATCH OUT! THE DAMN THING IS LEARNING!!! IT WILL TRY TO CUT YOU OFF AND KEEP YOU FROM REACHING THE GATE OR THE BRIDGE. RUN YOU FOOLS!!!”

Well damn. The Balrog had acquired a soul, and was remembering past the resets.

They headed out quickly – forget the fight with the troll – but the drums started up anyway. The orcs tried to cut them off and the place was getting hot. Kevin started wide-area blasts to keep the orcs down while the Thralls ran a kinetic force-wedge and missile defense and Marty handled any orcs that broke through.

They threw in a few illusions as well to help keep the arrow-fire scattered, but just kept rolling onwards (albeit with some booster-spells on Marty). They had plenty of magical power available, so they might as well use it. They’d have to report this whether they got out or died: the Balrog had presumably got the last few groups since the book had had a warning, but no one had reported it yet.

Marty single-handedly annihilated a cave troll and they rolled onwards – until the Balrog popped up. Apparently it’d been hoping that it’s minions would accomplish SOMETHING. It was hostile – but made the mistake of talking… Their casual assumption that the “plot” would defeat him eventually, that there was no such thing as “mortals”, and that his entire universe was a creation for amusement, was disconcerting. The fact that they were on their way elsewhere to deal with a very annoying light-energy channeler – who was technically misusing it’s power – was also of interest. If the powers of the light could be corrupted and misused, and he could learn to do so, not even Sauron would be able to resist him!

Well, that actually sounded like it might be amusing – so they put a shrinking-spell on the Balrog and took it along so that it could “vanquish this corrupt user of the Light so that I might learn his secrets and make myself more powerful”. Besides, that would solve the problem: with him and his soul elsewhere, the place should start resetting properly again.

It named itself Gantrithor, Balrog, Ruler of the Mines of Moria, Lord of Darkness, slayer of Gandolf, Aragon, and annoying little hobbits. Marty informed it that he was Marty Tabard of Amarant Solutions, Free Trader Derrick Rodan, duel champion Sam Monroe, and many other people. Keven got dramatic and threw in an entire list – Arpherion the Darkwalker, Titus Decius Aquilla, a trader of Rome, Kierroth, the Knight-Huntsman of Exeter of the Unseelie Fey, Belramos, the Angel of the Abyss, Ailill Keras’an’Darkell, a Dragon of the Draconic Empire, Angkor Shadowfang, a Werewolf, and Kevelian, a Red Wizard of Thay (among others).

Actually that worked out pretty well. Having a Balrog along should give them instant evil-party credentials without having to bother demonstrating!

Back in the Manifold Galaxy, Jarvain had reached his target zone – and the Cadets had pretty much finished marveling over Imperial/Battletech technology and how the ship had changed when they entered Mechwarrior space. They might have contributed some mana to it themselves, but it was still pretty impressive.

Turwin was a small, mineral-rich, world where water was a bit scarce and the biosphere was rather sparse because of it. The factories were clustered around the equatorial region – and there was already a pirate ship in orbit. A very small jumpship – one dropship and a lance or two of Mechs. It hadn’t spotted them, but doubtless would soon enough. It looked like there was already combat going on down at the surface.

Jarvian ordered a hot drop: The Mirage, Farslayer and Falconwings would descend from orbit on their own; the Atlas would need to be dropped off at ground level due to it’s weight.

Jarvian headed in with the rest of the Cadets to secure a landing zone. Air defenses were totally non-existent. The pirates had dealt with them – and were currently fighting around the factories. It looked like the pirates were finishing off the last of the defenders while loading up weapons and mechframes onto their dropship.

Jarvian swore. Dammit, that kind of stuff was what he had come for! Time to move to attack positions and target mobility and long-range weapons from… er… 40 miles out for the Falconwings, current altitude or more for the Farslayer.

The Basic Optronic Deck

   Second for today, it’s something simple, but pretty fundamental in Shadowrun – the basic structure of an “Optronic Deck”.

   Unlike it’s programs, the physical architecture of an optronic deck is fairly basic; the motherboard contains the power supply (a rechargeable battery, with a socket to connect a charger), a standard plug-n-play bus, clock and support circuitry, a minidisk drive, a minispeaker (capable of producing sounds at low volume and terrible quality), microphone, and an I/O chip running an array of eight standard sockets – permitting the deck to be hooked up to items such as simsense headsets, speakers, offline storage units, vidscreens, microphones, printer/fax systems, datajacks, digital cameras, telephone/matrix sockets, radio or cellular transceivers, HUD Glasses, video pickups, “pocket secretaries”, and various sensor or input devices, without bothering to install a wireless network chip.

   The upper surface mounts twelve chipjacks; the installed chips determine what a `deck does – and are by far the most expensive part part of the entire system. The cover opens to reveal a tiny (6 x 4 CM) vidscreen and a keypad – normally used for adjusting the system settings, running tests, rebooting, and so on. Overall, a standard optronic deck is about 2x8x12 CM, and weighs in at less then half a kilogram.

   An armored case, auxiliary power pack, transmission booster, and “full-sized keyboard” (a package the size of a current keyboard that includes a set of mini-speakers and a microphone, a roll-out vidscreen, transformer/charger circuitry and a retractable cord, a battery pack good for hours to days depending on usage, storage slots for chips and minidisks, and attachment points for a printer/scanner/fax module (which snaps on underneath). It connects to four of the eight standard sockets on the basic optronic deck (which slots into the side), and routes the other four to plugs on the back, allowing for the attachment of additional peripherals.

   Now, depending on what chips you install, an identical-looking deck may serve as a cyberdeck, a GPS system, a radio transceiver, a cellular phone, a bug scanner, a dataline scanner, a signal locator, an orientation system, a mass-storage device, or several of those things at once. The ever-popular CyberDeck must mount ASIST, RAS Override, and MPCP chips. Current (2060’s) MPCP chips have integral persona programs. Older (2050’s) models use independent persona chips. Chips for Active & Storage memory are not technically required, but are highly recommended; they can be purchased in sizes of up to 1250 MP. The remaining slots can be used to install more memory or special-purpose chips.

World of Darkness Merits: Generic and Specific

   First up for today, it’s the Merit Listing – outside of a few specialized Merits which are included in the relevant sections – from the World of Darkness General Point-Buy Rules. If you want a better-formatted version, or the complete rules, look there.

Generic Merits (All ! to !!!!!)

Acculturation: You know the language, traditions, laws, customs, and history of another culture. At (!) you know a few basics, at (!!!) you can blend in like a native. Add +(!) to blend into extremely exotic cultures, +(!!) to blend in with other species.

Adept. You have an exceptional natural talent for something, and may raise it to one over the usual Arcana-based limit. (!) for a single skill or specific Merit, (!!) for an individual Attribute, (!!!) for a particular Path and its Path Abilities, for a Skill Group (Physical, Social, or Mental), of for a small group (about 3) of related Merits, (!!!!) for an Attribute Group (Physical, Social, Mental, Power, Finesse, Resistance), and (!!!!!) for a small group (about 3) of Related Paths and Path Abilities or for a particular Influence and its Rotes. No single character may have a total of more than 5 dots in Adept.

Allies. There’s a group that supports you. The higher the level, the more they’re willing to do for you (Minor/Notable/Major/Very Dubious/Very Dangerous activities at L1-L5). Allies from an opposing group will be a level or two more expensive. Traditional allies may be cheaper. In any case, who are they?

Arcane Metabolism: Your body runs on magic, not on chemical energy. At (!) you can go without eating, drinking, or breathing for much longer than usual. Each level after that select two items from the following list: need not eat, need not drink, need not breathe, immune/poison, immune/disease, resistant to vacuum, resistant to high pressure, does not bleed, cannot go unconscious from bashing damage. Other items may be available. Arcane metabolisms can always be disrupted somehow, sending the character into a coma, do not help against supernatural toxins or diseases, and do not override the effects of other powers. If the character wants to be affected by something he or she may spend a Mana point to make the effect of whatever-it-is supernatural.

Arcane Reserve. You may store more Mana than usual. Your limit is upgraded by 1 per level of this merit or by 10% per level of this merit, whichever is more.

Arcane Well. At (!) you gain one free Mana point per week, drawn from inner reserves. At higher levels you gain (Level -1) free Mana points per day. Characters with the Source limitation on their Arcana cannot take this merit above (!). Specific situations or requirements are commonly taken as drawbacks.

Artifact. You have a magical item. It may be enhanced by permanent magic, contain a spirit, be linked with another realm, or whatever. As a rule, even weak Artifacts are difficult to destroy or to get rid of in any permanent fashion – and it gets worse as they become more powerful. Spend (2 x Level) dots on Powers (Minor to Legendary. The GM should consider how useful this is, how often it comes up, and the level of the effect), Mana Reserves (4 per dot), and Mana Recovery (1 per dot). General powers require a roll to activate, specific stuff simply works. Characters may buy multiple artifacts and may create them by spending their CP. Likely Drawbacks on Artifacts include Legendary (draws a lot of attention, -1), Expendable (limited Uses, -2), and being actively Dangerous to use or own (-1-2).

Blessed. You gain a pool of bonus dice you can use once each in each session to boost any desired non-chance roll. You normally get one die per level, but if there’s a Ban – a situation in which your number of bonus dice become a dice-pool penalty – you get two dice per level. Dice from the True Faith variant CAN be added to chance rolls, or even used for rolls where no dice are normally allowed (for example, normally you don’t get to roll to have your holy symbol sear a vampire with holy flames – or for your touch to cure a heroin addict). The number of successes required depends on the scale: blasting an individual vampire with holy fire might take one, blasting Sodom calls for five or more. Unfortunately, you can only roll for things which make sense according to your beliefs and must make great efforts to live up to your them or the GM is entitled to take dice out of your pool for each lapse. Many people have faith, but don’t live up to it well enough to get miracles.

Body Hardening. (!) +1/0 Armor, (!!) +1/1 Armor, (!!!) +2/1 Armor, (!!!!) +2/2 Armor, can easily handle hot objects, corrosives, and other problematic items, (!!!!!) +3/2 Armor, +(!!) to reduce firearms damage to bashing damage (this may be added to a base of 0).

Bonus Dice: You get +1 per level on some type of check in some specific situation, such as detecting ambushes, lifting and carrying heavy weights, trying to remember things, when resisting fatigue or injuries, versus disease, on survival checks, versus toxins, when your believers are witnessing your magical spells, when you’re resisting psychic powers, or when you’re dealing with people who are impressed by your fame. You get two dice per level if they only work to offset unusual penalties, such as trying to use Medicine without appropriate tools, the penalty for quick-drawing a particular weapon, looking for contacts in a strange city, or ignoring penalties to going into a trance. You only get one die for every two levels for relatively common situations, such as resisting magical effects or social rolls with those affected by your good looks. In any case, you can’t add bonus dice to a chance roll.

Companions. You have a good friend, wise mentor, loyal retainer, cheeky sidekick, groupie, or similar companion. Allocate (2 x Level) dots between Reliability, Power, Availability and Numbers (each +2 dots doubles the number). If you want to have pets, ignore Availability – and Reliability is usually fairly low.

Documentation. Each dot provides you with one established alternate ID, set of special permits, or other collection of major legal paperwork along with appropriate supporting evidence.

Enhancement. This covers personal enhancements derived from possessing spirits, cyberware, exotic martial arts, drugs and herbs, religious imbuements, beings from beyond, demonic investments, and other exotic sources. In general, the character gets (Level)x(Level) “points” to expend on specific systems/ talents, none of which may cost more then (Level) points. Sadly, anything past trivial enhancements (1-2 points) causes problems. The specific problems depend on the nature of the enhancement, but their total value must equal (Enhancement Rating – 1). Possible problems include:

  • Detectibility; Your enhancements can be detected with a medical exam (-1), from your “aura”/signature/whatever when it’s actively probed (-2), or are obvious/broadcast something detectable (-3).
  • Psychological Effects; Your enhancements cause mental problems – often costing points from or limiting your Sanity score. Minor/ Major/Overwhelming problems are worth -1/-2/-3 points.
  • Overstress Effects; Your enhancements cause pain and fatigue (-1), drains your life energy and reduces your lifespan (-2), or causes physical overloads (Pulled muscles, heart attacks, etcetera. Such effects can be partially resisted with stamina checks).
  • Social Penalties; Your enhancements inhibit your social life. It may do so in a Minor (Occasional problems, -1), Major (Continuos – if fairly minor – limitations, or severe ones that only come up once in a while, -2), or Severe (Major limitations, all the time, -3) fashion.
  • Special Regimen Required; You have to keep up with a special training program, perform odd rituals, or undertake some other task to keep your powers. Minor/Major/Absurd time and resource requirements are worth -1/-2/-3.
  • Energy Cost; Using your enhancements costs you some of your personal energies, usually in the form of Willpower or Mana. -1 for minor costs, -2 for major.
  • Personal Limitations; There are things your enhancements simply keep you from doing. You may have so much metal in your body that you can’t swim, attract lightning bolts, and set off metal detectors within 20 feet. You may be unable to set foot on holy ground. Regardless, Minor/Major/Absurd limitations are worth -1/-2/-3.
  • As an example, some Killer Cyborgs that hunt various supernatural beings have Enhancement 3 (nine enhancement points), that have been spent on Armor 2 (2), Pop-Out Claws (1), Countermagical construction II (3), and a built-in Machine Gun (3). Their drawbacks are being easily detectable via medical checks or relevant magics and being grossly obvious as inhuman killing machines when they go into action (both worth -1).

Equipment. You don’t have to pay points for stuff you can buy or steal, although you may have to have some allies to represent appropriate contacts for exotic or restricted items. Most equipment provides dice bonuses – usually +1-2 for ordinary stuff, +3-4 for general shops or highly specialized gear, and +5-6 for facilities, restricted, or extremely high-quality stuff. Sadly, armor generally halves these values. You may buy enhanced equipment though: 1 dot per +2 Structure/Durability/Size or +1 bonus. Drawbacks, such as armor being bulky and heavy, may reduce +1 costs to 0 though.

Favors: You’re owed favors, have bargaining chips with, or have blackmail material on, all kinds of people. Each dot gives you one die per session to roll when you need a favor from someone: if you succeed, you get one.

Haven. You have a home base. You may share it with others (who may also contribute dots), but you must allocate (2xLevel) dots between Location, Size, Security, and any Special Facilities (such as laboratories, mystical vaults, and super-computer systems) that you want it to have.

Honorarium. You may take 5-10 minutes to conduct a brief ritual in honor of (!) any one specimen of a general type of spirit, (!!) any one spirit you like, or (!!!) a group of up to (Pre + 1) spirits. Roll (Presence + Occult). On a success the spirits receive their choice of a point of essence or willpower. Such rites normally require a minor sacrifice, such as a bottle of rum, chicken, or a good meal, but this can be reduced to things like incense sticks or drawings of appropriate goods for +(!). No single character may honor the spirits in this way more than three times per day. Worse, honoring one set of spirits occasionally (if rarely) offends others. This potential problem can be bypassed with another +(!).

Immunity. You are immune to the effects of some Uncommon (!), Common (!!), or Very Common (!!!) effect through level 1-3 (+0), 4-7 (+!), or even 8-10 (+!!). For example, you might be immune to possession, radiation, the addictive and binding effects of drinking vampire blood, mind control, divination, old age, and many other effects. As usual, the GM must approve.

Innate Spell. You have some natural magical power. In general the cost is equal to the level of the spell if it’s slow and cumbersome to use, add +(!) if its fast or constant and add another +(!) if it’s subtle.

Insight. You’re entitled to one free clue or bit of information per level per session. This usually takes time, reduce the effective level by two if you simply get to ask on the spot.

Iron Will. At (!) you gain one free Willpower point per week, drawn from inner reserves. At higher levels you gain (Level -1) free Willpower points per game session. If you like, you can take a Nemesis as a -2 Drawback: you only get the points when they get involved – or when you trace a current problem back to them. Other drawbacks can represent things like True Love, being driven to battle particular opponents, and so on.

Jonah. You penalize the dice pools of those nearby with regard to some type of action. You may NEVER undertake that type of action yourself. Generally -1 die per level, at L5 it amounts to a complete block, reducing your victims to a chance roll to use their powers. Note that blocking something like “vampire disciplines” is a good way to get yourself killed. They don’t like it.

Linguist. You speak and read another language adequately (!), like a native (!!), or near-perfectly (!!!). Each additional dot doubles the number of languages you know.

Luck. You get one reroll per session per level. These don’t add to your old roll, they simple replace it. This is often specialized via drawbacks to represent exotic resistances or advantages.

Martial Art. You’re really skilled in a particular combat style. You get one special maneuver (clear them with the GM) per level. Adding a skill instead of doubling your defense when dodging is a classic one to start off with. Disarming and Finesse (use Dex instead of Str with a particular weapon) are popular at L2.

Memory. You have a head full of obscure memories and skills. You may roll this to try and remember bits about various “past lives” or – given a minute or two – allot the dots to a skill (up to a maximum of 5). This lasts for a full scene, but each dot may be so allotted only once per session. Optionally, if you actually name and describe the sources of your memories and the skills they make available, you may purchase this Merit multiple times.

Mystic Sense. You have some extra or improved sense that other’s don’t. The cost depends on how useful this is. You may be able to sense true north (!), smell like a bloodhound (!!), see in the dark, sense the presence of a particular type of supernatural activity, or mystically analyze blood (!!!), sense when a proposed course of action is idiotic or the presence of any kind of supernatural activity (!!!!), or simply have greatly-improved senses all around (!!!!!).

Mystic Veil. Your mere unveiled presence induces irrational reactions. At (!) witnesses will be very confused about what they saw later on. At (!!) photos and other records will be regarded as hoaxes. At (!!!) people will be very confused at the time and will tend to forget about you later. At (!!!!) they’ll have powerful emotional reactions (of a nature chosen when you buy this merit) at the time. At (!!!!!) they’ll have overwhelming reactions at the time and L4 reactions if reminded later on. +(!) to be able to turn this on and off. If you need a roll use (Mystic Veil + Arcana + Presence) versus Willpower.

Natural Advantage. One or more of your innate Advantages is heightened somehow. In general add 1-for-1 to Initiative and Speed, 1 for 2 (round up) to Defense and Health, 1 for 2 (round down) to Perception, 1 extra Vice for 3 (round off), 1 for 4 (round down) to Size, and 1 extra Virtue or point of Willpower per 5 (round down). Each type of bonus is purchased independently.

Nexus. You have access to a Place of Power. For (!) it’s minor (L1-2, +1 to magical actions), for (!!) it’s major (L3-4, +2 to magical actions), and for (!!!) it’s grand (L5, +3 to magical actions). Nexi usually produce (2 x Level) total Mana per day. For +(!) it has some magical feature, is defended, is mystically hidden, or is at least 50% yours alone. For +(!!) it crystalizes any untapped mana or belongs to you alone.

Obscured. Mystical forces conceal you. People trying to magically locate, analyze, or detect you, those using indirect physical means (i.e. detective work instead of direct spying), and those using long-range magic against you, suffer a penalty equal to your Obscured dots.

Rebirth. You get to come back after being “killed”. At (!) you get to keep most of your memories, but your point total is reduced to whatever the GM allows for a “replacement” character and the process may take quite some time and/or some adventures in spirit realms to complete. At (!!) your point total is still reduced, but the returning process only takes a few days, if that. At (!!!) it only costs you 50 XP (or less if that would take you below the replacement character allotment) to return. At (!!!!) this is reduced to a maximum of 30 XP and you enjoy a greatly extended lifespan before you need to return unless you die of unnatural causes. At (!!!!!) the cost is reduced to 20 XP and you gain an indefinite lifespan. Unfortunately, even at L5, there’s always some way of killing you for good, even if it’s pretty obscure. Add +(!) if you want to include minor metamorphosis and/or a bit of a character rewrite in your rebirth.

Regeneration. You heal much more quickly than normal. At (!) you simply recover with a minimum of pain and scarring. At (!!) you recover a level of bashing damage every ten minutes, one level of lethal damage per day, and one level of aggravated damage every three days. At (!!!) you recover a level of bashing damage every five minutes, a level of lethal damage each day, and a level of aggravated damage every two days. You may also spend 3 Mana to recover a level of lethal or bashing damage immediately. At (!!!!) you recover a level of bashing damage every minute, a level of lethal damage every 12 hours, and a level of aggravated damage every two days. You may spend one Mana to recover two levels of bashing damage or a level of lethal damage immediately. You may also spend 5 Mana and 1 Willpower to recover a level of aggravated damage immediately. Finally, at (!!!!!), you recover a level of bashing damage each round, a level of lethal damage every 15 minutes, and a level of aggravated damage every two days. You may spend a point of mana to recover 4 levels of bashing or one level of lethal damage immediately or 3 Mana and a point of Willpower to recover a level of aggravated damage.

   Once again, Regeneration is simply an innate spell – but it’s popular enough to get its own listing.

Resources. You have wealth. The more dots, the more money. If you wish you may divide (2xLevel) dots among Income, Holdings, and Special Resources (such as controlling a business).

Shapeshifting. At L1 you can change details of your form, at L2 you have a single alternate form which may slightly modify your abilities, at L3 you have a set of up to five thematically-linked alternate forms, at L4 you may take a wide variety of forms (such as: any animal), at L5 you can take almost any form. +(!) to allow notable changes in mass and attributes, +(!!) to allow major enhancements. Unconscious characters normally revert to whatever their base form is. It usually requires a roll of (Stamina + Survival + Arcana) to shift or a point of Mana to do it instantly.

   While this is technically just an innate spell, it’s popular enough to deserve its own listing.

Status. You’re an influential (and probably respected) member of some group. Characters with Status in an enemy group will find it reduced by one or two effective levels, although a net status of 0 suffices for acceptance. Which group?

Veiled. You’re highly resistant to the supernatural. You can roll your Veiled rating to disrupt any supernatural effects you see, add it to resistance checks against magical powers, and add it to any attempt to get your life back to “normal” if your routine has been disrupted by supernatural creatures. You may even roll it to get marauding supernatural types to bother someone else. On the downside, you may NEVER possess supernatural powers, must roll to disrupt any attempt to help you magically, and must FAIL a roll to accurately see, or later remember, supernatural events.

   Most of the standard WOD settings presume that some sort of mystical censorship prevails: most humans somehow remain blissfully oblivious of the blatant supernatural stuff going on all around them. It’s not clear as to whether this is a power (Mystic Veil) or drawback of the creatures, a (weird) natural law, a human disadvantage, or some sort of defensive human power. This option presumes that it’s a defensive power – and one sufficiently strong to keep history on track despite all the supernatural interference.


Sample Specific Merits:

Arcane Heart (!!!!). You may spend a willpower point to negate up to three successes on a Backlash check or to allow you to tap a source that does not entirely fulfill your Source requirement.

Arcane Mastery (!! to !!!!). You may spend up to (Level -1) extra points of mana per turn.

Bonus Action (!!!). You can roll for something (select what) without it counting as your action under specific circumstances, albeit at a -1 penalty. You may be able to drive while doing other things, use pistols in both hands at once (this doesn’t negate the -2 offhand penalty. Buy that separately), use a sword and dagger, or cast spells while holding up your end of an ongoing conversation.

Enchanted (! to !!!!!). You exist simultaneously in two aspects of reality. To you both are real – although the physical side takes precedence. Being “killed” in a spirit-plane is temporary, if traumatic (it disrupts the link for a time and often causes some amnesia). Being physically killed is generally more or less permanent. Merits that only function on a spirit-plane, such as spirit-world gear or allies, suffer from a drawback of at least -1.

! You may sense and manipulate the other aspect, and may be sensed and manipulated from it. You gain “Chimerical Health” equal to your normal health for tracking spirit-plane damage. It heals normally, or you can heal a level in a few minutes by spending a Mana point.

!! You may appear drastically different in the alternate world, and may have entirely different clothing, adornment, and gear there. You magic works in both worlds, albeit only one at a time unless you spend an extra Mana point..

!!! You may cast spells which only affect the alternate world for one less Mana than usual (0 minimum).

!!!! You age at half the normal rate and may allow the other aspect to take precedence. For example, you may cross a bridge which only exists in the spirit realm. Disbelieving humans observing such an stunt may shunt the character fully into the spirit world if they win a (Willpower) roll against the character’s (Willpower + Arcana).

!!!!! Your otherworldly aspect may survive your physical death UNLESS you’re slain in a particular fashion (Cold Iron vrs the Fey is the most well known) and may even reincarnate eventually. You may also spend a point of Mana to temporarily manifest your spiritual form, and any equipment or companion-spirits, in the physical world.

Experienced (No Cost). You’ve had some prior adventures. While this has some benefits, it also means that old problems may pop up at any point. The GM is entitled to roll on the following table at the start of each session:

  • 1: Bad Blood. Someone you’ll have to deal with, and talk into something, this time out knows you – and is pissed at you.
  • 2: Debts. Someone calls in a favor, forcing you to go on a mission, spare a foe, exert influence, provide information or resources, or otherwise go well out of your way.
  • 3: Enigmas. You get a puzzle-clue or -directive from a cryptic mentor, weird old foe, or rival.
  • 4: Family. A child, lover, parent, or good friend of yours has gotten entangled in current events. Can you deal with it?
  • 5: Legalities. Everybody breaks the rules – and whoever enforces this one has finally caught up with you.
  • 6: Nemesis. An old foe drops by or sends some minions to take a shot at you – if possible while you’re fully occupied.
  • 7: Prize. Something you want badly, but failed to claim, is back – but is it bait for a trap?
  • 8: Recognized. Someone may see through your disguise, your reputation catches up with you, or your foes seem to know a lot about your powers and abilities. Perhaps some dark truth about your past (or true identity) will be revealed.
  • 9: Rival. Yes, they’re here to show you up, seduce your lover, or steal your thunder. Don’t have a stroke.
  • 10: Unfinished Business. Something you didn’t finish is back to haunt you. Deal with it.

   The player should be prepared to provide some details on the character’s prior adventures, and to offer some possible interpretations of rolls on the chart above. For example, if a “Nemesis” comes up, you should be able to give the GM a few possibilities for who it might be and what kind of minions he, she, or it, may have available.

   On the upside the character gains either 35 XP or a 10% bonus on his or her starting XP total (whichever is better) and may take extra flaws and drawbacks for 5-15 bonus XP each (the value is set by the GM) to up to double this value. Since such flaws have already provided bonus XP, the GM is under no obligation to provide any more when they come up in play – although he or she may opt to do so.

Epic and Legendary (!!! or !!!!!). Epic and Legendary characters succeed on rolls of 7+ and 6+ respectively. Unfortunately, they also find most situations less challenging, and so gain 1 or 2 fewer XP each time the GM hands them out. To partially make up for this, if the GM limits the number of flaws a character can possess, Epic characters can have two extra ones while Legendary characters can have four extras.

Fast Healer (!!!!). You heal all damage, including aggravated damage, in only one-half the normal time. Any magical healing you receive, including Regeneration, is similarly doubled.

Fresh Start (!). You may skip an action this turn to change your initiative to whatever you want for succeeding turns.

Inspiring (!!!! or !!!!!). Roll (Presence+Persuasion) once per day. All allies and helpful types in earshot get back a will point on a success. At L5 they also get back three Mana points.

Library (! to !!!). You have a personal collection of reference works on some particular topic. You can make research rolls on that topic in a mere 10 minutes with a +(Rating-1) bonus on them. Researching a ritual in a library provides a +(Rating) bonus when performing said ritual. You can take Library multiple times: each time it covers another topic.

Linked (!! to !!!!!). You are mystically linked to something or some individual with a bond that crosses Space (!!), Space and Realms (!!!), or even Space, Realms, and Time (!!!!). You can communicate with it if it’s sentient and are effectively touching it (and hence can use a variety of powers on it) at all times. For an additional +(!) you may spend Mana to heal or repair whatever-it-is and may even spend 10 Mana to simply re-create a destroyed item.

Polymorphic (!!!) (Shapeshifters Only). Your shapeshifting extends to the deep cellular level. In general, this means that DNA analysis (along with looking at your hair, fingerprints, and other details that shapeshifting normally warps) is useless. It also means that you can accept (or give) transfusions to anyone, won’t suffer from allergies, and that no one can exploit bits of your tissue as sympathetic links.

   Yes, this one is awfully specific: that’s the point. If you want some oddity, run it by the GM.

Power Link (!!! or !!!!!). You are linked to an external source of Mana, usually directly to one of the spiritual planes. At level (!!!) you are:

  • <An obvious power source. You have a weird aura, attract predatory supernatural beings, and are a probable target for anyone who’s looking for sources of magical energy.
  • <Inherently Enchanted at L1. You may see, be harassed by, and take chimerical damage from, entities of the plane you’re liked to. This won’t help you buy “Enchanted” later (if you ever want to).
  • <Considered a “relative” – and an agent – by the entities of the plane you’re linked to. You will have to deal with seriously weird visitors, relatives, and requests. Still, they’re usually fairly polite – at least at first.
  • <A magnet for general weirdness. Worse, if you’re a member of an NPC organization, they’ll expect you to use your enhanced powers to deal with all kinds of problems.
  • <Especially vulnerable to some type of attack related to your source-dimension, taking aggravated damage at -2 levels from it. Luckily, you gain that same (-2 level) protection from any special sources of aggravated damage you’re already subject to.
  • <Inherently empowered, reducing the Mana cost of using Paths and Influences by 1 point (0 minimum) and gaining a +2 bonus on ritualistic effects.
  • <Well-practiced. You get two minor (L1) path powers as a bonus.

   At level (!!!!!) you automatically regain one point of Mana per hour spent resting or meditating. Unfortunately, your energy level is so high that you cannot tap any other source of Mana unless you spend a point of permanent willpower to do so. All of the inherent ill effects of a basic Power Link (1-4) will be greatly exaggerated. Worse, the energy you radiate is actively disruptive of something (annoying those using whatever-it-is in the area) and can cause spontaneous weird effects on creatures and items nearby.

   Power Link is the difference between the mystical Ebonfire, Master of Fire Magic and the superhero Firelord, Celestial Avatar. In a short fight there isn’t much difference. Over an extended series of battles a character with Power Link will have a major advantage. Of course, characters with Power Link also tend to attract major series of battles.

Secrets (!!). You have access to extraordinary knowledge. You might know a Score of True Names, the answers to Ten Ancient Riddles, how to reach the Secret Chamber of the Sphinx, the Key to Summoning the Lost Legions of Azoth, or the Final Resting Place of the Holy Grail. Each such bit of information has an auxiliary cost however – usually 1-3 XP depending on its obscurity and importance. You can buy more information after character creation, although the GM may rule that some bits simply aren’t available, or at least aren’t available without describing how you’re obtaining them.

   The XP cost only applies to bits of information that you want to add to the game or “research”. The GM should give you several “freebies” to start off with (a.k.a “plot hooks”) and may opt to hand out more at any time.

Spirit Companion (!!! to !!!!!). The character is accompanied by a spirit of rank 1 (!!!) or 2 (!!!!) (rank corresponds to its Arcana score). For an additional +(!) it can be given a physical form. Otherwise it hangs about in either Twilight or Shadow, wandering about as instructed (if it feels like obeying) or as it pleases.

   Whether Fetch, Familiar, Ancestor Spirit, Patron, Ally, or Totem, spirit companions all use the same basic template and are mystically linked with their mortals. They may feel each others emotions (damaging and manipulating effects do not transfer), share senses, and communicate. They may gain Mana by drawing it from something with the appropriate resonance or by donation from their mortal associate. Each has a Ban, chosen by the GM.

  • Disembodied Spirits have only 3 attributes (Power, Finesse, and Resistance. 3/3/2 points at L1, 4/3/2 points at L2), a choice of 4 Trivial OR 3 Lesser OR 2 Greater OR 1 Grandiose Influence dots, 1 (L1) or 2 (L2) Numen, a Virtue, a Vice, and calculated advantages (Willpower = Power+Resistance, Initiative = Finesse+Resistance, Defense = Highest of Power and Finesse, Speed = Power+Finesse +Species Factor [as per species], Size: 5 or less [as per species], and Corpus = Resistance + Size).
  • If in Twilight it must spend 1 point of Mana per day to remain awake, falling into slumber if it has none left. On the other hand, it can freely share its Mana reserve with its companion and can “touch” him or her and use its powers on him or her without having to manifest (which they may do as per ghosts).
  • If in Shadow it cannot share Mana (although the mortal involved may donate some to it), but need not spend any per day anyway. They may manifest under the usual spirit rules.
  • Spirits with physical forms need not spend Mana at all, gain an extra Numen (usually Innocuous, but larger forms may call for other Numen), use the standard attributes (5/4/3 at L1, 7/5/3 at L2), Skills (9/6/3 at L1, 12/8/4 at L2), and calculated advantages. Their size and speed modifiers depend on the species of the body.
  • Spirits may be improved by spending XP on them. Their mortal companion can spend his or her own at 1-to-1. Other mortals may contribute XP as well, but must spend 3 XP to give the spirit one.
  • XP may be spent to upgrade an embodied spirits attributes and skills normally, and to buy additional Arcana, Influences, and Paths as usual. Additional Numen cost 3 points each. Upgrading Spirit Attributes costs (2 x New Dots) XP and is subject to the usual upper limits.
  • It’s also possible to allow a spirit to act as a conduit for forces from the Shadow. A spirit may act as a patron for an individual or group, bestowing (subject to the usual maximums):
    • <Attribute Bonuses: To an entire group (18 XP per +1), to any one individual in a group at a time (10 XP per +1), or on a uses-per-session basis (3 XP per +1. These last for one scene).
    • <Path Abilities: To an entire group (10 XP per Level), to any one individual in a group at a time (5 XP per Level), or on a uses-per-session basis (3 XP per Level). Users must qualify for the power granted to use it.
    • <Skill Bonuses: To an entire group (5 XP per +1), to any one individual in a group at a time (3 XP per +1), or on a uses-per-session basis (2 XP per +1. These last for one scene). Granting a Speciality to an entire group costs 2 XP.
    • <Willpower Points: 1 per XP, to a maximum of 5. These are a pool made available to the group each session.
    • <Mana Points: The spirit makes available a pool of 2 Mana per XP spent per session.

   The Game Master may opt to limit patron spirit enhancements to Werewolves, who are inherently attuned to the spirit world, or to require a special merit to allow characters to attune themselves to the spirit in question.

Shadowrun Penumbra: Traditions and Initiation

   For today, it’s the basic magical skills and mage types available under the Penumbra rules. This information is also available in a better-formatted version in the character-creation PDF for our local games, but a couple of the players have requested posting the material (and some other stuff I may get to later) online for easy access – so here it is.

   The additional magical skills and mage types were introduced systematically (rather than as on-the-fly rulings and scribbled notes) after the first edition Grimoire came out back in 1990 and failed to explore many of the logical possibilities inherent in the system. They got a full revision around 1999, but there haven’t been any problems since then.

   The Initiate Powers listing was created just after the first edition Grimoire came out with a somewhat disappointing listing. It originally included 72 powers, but was expanded to the current 104 over the next few years. An option to treat Grounding Spells as an initiate power was added to maintain consistency with prior editions when SR3 came out in 1998. It was reorganized in 1999 for easier consultation. Half a dozen powers were renamed and tweaked in 2005 to accommodate the publication of some similar powers in the State of the Art and other sourcebooks.

Magical Basics: 

   Magic is magic. Adept Powers, Spells, Spirit Powers, Critter Powers, Item Powers and anything else you care to name are all a manifestation of the same thing. One way may be easier, but anything you can do with one you can do with another.

The Primary Magical Skills: 

  • Astral Access. The ability to perceive, manipulate, and travel through Astral Space, as well as to channel energy to and from it. Fundamental to Manifestation, Warding, Astral Tracking, and Astral Sculpting.
  • Conjuration. The ability to summon, bind and banish spirits. While there are a wide variety of spirits (as listed below), most mages can only summon a few, specific, types. Whether spirits are shaped by their summoners minds or are independent archetypes is open to debate. Conjurers are subdivided into Spontaneous and Ritual summoners and by the type of spirits they summon. Most can summon one primary and one secondary type.
  • Enchantment. The ability to both store magical energies in objects temporarily and to create long-term, or even permanent, links to astral space. It covers Trivial, Lesser, and Greater Enchantments. It’s powerful and durable, but extremely slow.
  • Enhancement (Exclusive). The ability to internalize a continuous stream of mana. This tends to interfere with astral sight, so any character with this skill who lacks full astral access must develop that ability separately if they wish to have it.
  • Sorcery (Exclusive). The ability to direct bursts of mana through mental constructs (“Spells”) into immediate manifestation. This skill is covered in the existing Shadowrun books except for the Master level.
  • Thaumaturgy (Exclusive). The ability to tap into and channel the powers of spirits, great and small. Very powerful, but rigidly limited in both the frequency of use and in the type of powers available due to the necessity of bargaining with the spirits called upon.
  • Witchcraft (Exclusive). The ability to subtly manipulate a continuous but externalized flow of mana. Witchcraft effects tend to be low-powered but supremely flexible.

Common Spirit Types:

  • Animal and Plant Spirits. Animal spirits usually manifest as animals, but plant spirits are fairly passive and can only possess the local vegetation.
  • Elemental. In general, Fire, Air, Earth, and Water.
  • Entities. “Demons”, “Horrors”, “Imps”, and so on. Usually limited to madmen and the throughly corrupt. Such spirits can be extremely powerful but usually must be “paid” to obtain services.
  • Free Spirits. Each “free” spirit is a unique individual and can only be compelled via their true name. Certain metamagical techniques, and “public” names, can be used to contact powerful ones though. A likely source of many historical “gods”.
  • Blood Spirits. Also Ghosts, Shedim, Wraiths, and Specters. A field that’s generally only available to necromancers, users of “sacrificing” metamagic and those equipped with relevant talismans or true names.
  • Insect Spirits. Usually limited to mad shamanic types.
  • Light and Darkness. These spirits are apparently related to nature spirits and to elementals, but with vague domains, and some unusual abilities. A conjurer can only call upon one such spirit at a time.
  • Loa and Zombie. Loa are highly individualized but zombies are all very much alike.
  • Machine Spirits. While these have been reported a number of times, no one who can reliably call them has ever come forward. Machine spirit types include Vehicle, Computer, Industrial, and Household spirits. They may be related to the Otaku.
  • Nature. Land, Water, Air, Sky and Man/Ancestor.
  • Primal (A.K.A. “Spirits Of The Elements”). Fire, Air, Earth, Water, and Wood.
  • Totem Spirits and Icons. These spirits are embodiments of ideas and philosophies. In general, they have forces too high for any mortal to survive summoning them, although minor aspects have been known to communicate with Thaumaturgists and some metamagical specialists.
  • Toxic. A distorted variant of another spirit type. It’s unknown whether some areas are inherently warped or if toxic spirit manifestations are a result of their summoner’s twisted mind.
  • Watchers and Allies. Specialists in this area may also summon Thought-Forms and even Mythagos (spirits and generic character “types out of popular myths). Sadly, these cost karma to call up. There is some debate over whether or not Totems and Icons fall into this category as well.

Common Magical Types:

Class-A+ Magic-Wielders

  • Archmagi. Archmagi are rare enough that each is a unique case.
  • Grandmasters. Grandmasters are full masters of two different magical skills. To date one of them is always Conjuration, but the sample size is extremely limited.

Class-A Magic-Wielders 

  • Magician. The classic Shadowrun magic-wielder. They get Astral Access, Enchantment, Conjuration, and Sorcery. They’re usually subdivided by type of conjuration used. Hermetics (Ritualistic Elemental), Shamans (Spontaneous Nature), and so on. Variants include Druids, Wuxing, Neopagans, Houngan, Pathmagi, and many more. The more exotic traditions use various edges and flaws to represent their special abilities.
  • Thaumaturgist. Living channels for spirit powers. They get Astral Access, Conjuration, Enchantment – and Thaumaturgy. In general they may summon any spirit – but cannot compel them. They’re normally defined by the bargains they’ve made, hence each is an individual.
  • Witch. Experts at subtle magical manipulations, witches get Astral Access, Conjuration, Enchantment, and, of course, Witchcraft. They’re usually subdivided by the type of conjuration they use, but usually go by group or path names rather then by type names. They tend to be subtle and adaptable enough to get along with each other.
  • Yogi. Masters of personal enhancement, Yogi tend to be rare in western settings and more common in the far east. They have Astral Access, Conjuration, Enchantment, and Enhancement and most often summon Ancestral and Place spirits.
  • Masters. Masters, obviously enough, get master-level use of a single magical skill. The seven variants are usually referred to as Dreamers (Astral Access), Aces (Enhancement), Summoners (Conjuration), Crafters (Enchantment), PowerShapers (Sorcery), Theurgists (Thaumaturgy) and Spellbinders (Witchcraft). Note that Otaku are a type of Ace with the Computer Emulation ability.
  • The Others. Magic-users who use two or more of the four “exclusive” skills must divide their magic rating between them. They’re relatively rare, but present unique challenges. Physical Magi are the most common, but many others exist.

   The Otaku are humans and metahumans who have developed the ability to interface with, command, run programs on, and store data from computers with nothing more then a datajack. The change is apparently induced by a quasi-mystical effect called the Deep Resonance, and defies analysis.

   This is a giveaway. The neural nets of the brain, it’s various functions, and it’s biological basis, were all in the process of being fully analyzed at the end of the 20’th century. Current science is capable of rewiring portions of the brain, interfacing it with electronics – and even simply programming in skills and reflexes. The only function of the brain that still defies analysis is magic – unless you care to believe that somehow a large computer network has created some new laws of nature.

Class-B Magic-Wielders

  • Adepts. Get full use of any one of the seven basic magical skills. Most of them get Astral Sight. Adepts include Enchanters, Astral Adepts, Conjurer Adepts, Sorcery Adepts, Invokers (Thaumaturgic Adepts), and Spellweavers (Witchcraft Adepts).
  • Aspected Magicians. Get limited use of three of the basic magical skills restricted by some sort of “Theme”. Elementalists and Wujen only use magic associated with a single element, Shamanists and Voodounista only use magic associated with a particular Totem Spirit, Priests only use magic associated with a particular Entity, Negators can only use Sorcery for Defense, Conjuring to Banish, and Astral Access to create Wards. Warlocks (Diviners, Illusionists, Shapers, Technomancers, Bards, Beastmasters, and Necromancers) only use magic associated with a particular field , and Espers (Who only use magic associated with “Psychic Powers”). Note that they may use Sorcery, Witchcraft, or any of the other skills. For Aspected Magi it’s the theme which matters, not the specific means.

Class-C Magic-Wielders

  • Talents. Class-C magic-wielders get a single, and often near-unique magical ability. Sample talents include
    • The ability to sketch the “inner essence” of a passerby.
    • Being able to spend karma to bond with animals, gaining the ability to see through their eyes and communicate with them at a distance.
    • Being able to act as a channel or host for spirits.
    • Being in touch with a particular spirit or entity.
    • Having occasional clairvoyant visions.
  • Monomagi. These minor magi get limited access to a single magical skill. Breakers may have access to Sorcery (Spell Defense), Spirit Fighters get Sorcery (Astral Combat), Psychics get Witchcraft (any single speciality), Exorcists get Conjuration (Banishing), Mystics get Sorcery (A single spell type), (Spirit Type) Masters get Conjuration (may Summon, Bind, and Banish a single type of spirit, such as Fire Elementals), Pacters get Thaumaturgy (A single entity), and so on.

Class-D Magic-Wielders

   Technically there aren’t any. The Class-D magic purchase provides latent abilities which may be trained later. There are, however, a few options for increasing your effective magic rating.

  • Occultists. These characters can tap astral space for mana, but must channel the power through their own life force. They can use active magic as if they’d purchased it at one rank higher, but drain which would normally be Stun damage is Physical. Drain which would normally result in Physical Damage results in instant death. Overchanneling Thaumaturgy and Witchcraft is also fatal.
  • Ritualists. These characters can only tap into astral space very very slowly, but can use active magic as if they’d purchased it at one rank higher – given minutes to hours for normally near-instant effects and days to weeks for effects that normally require an hour or so of ritual.

General Magician Notes 

  • Approximately 1% of the population has Class-C potential, and many of those are never trained (remaining Class-D).
  • Approximately .9% of the population has Class-B potential. Most get a little training – unless they go mad or get themselves lynched. Sadly, this isn’t uncommon.
  • Approximately .1% of the population has Class-A potential. There are about 5,000,000 competent, trained, Class-A mages in the world. Untrained Magi often go a bit mad.
  • Less than .001% – 1 in 100,000 – of the population has A+ potential. Keep that in mind when dealing with one.
  • Many magi are seriously deluded about the source, nature, and limits of their power. This doesn’t make them much less dangerous, although it sometimes makes them pretty hard to work with. 

Initiate Powers Listing

   Since it is possible to start off as an Initiate, and what powers are available in the future may have a major impact on setup decisions, here’s a quick summary listing of the initiate powers.

   Initiates get three powers per level or initiation, but initiation carries no automatic bonuses. Depending on the setting, certain powers may not be available, or may only be available from specific groups or other sources. Check with the game master before taking Initiate powers.

   Abilities listed with an (R) may be taken repeatedly to acquire more advanced abilities. Abilities listed with a number in (-) require that minimum level of initiation to take. The “Threat” listings are abilities that sane magicians should not take; none of them ever turn out well in the end. All Initiates gain access to the “General” list and may take Mastery to access the sublists associated with their particular magic skills.

Initiate Powers and Capsule Descriptions

General Powers:

  • Amplification; Temporarily boost your magic rating. Those using Enhancement skills must select what powers are usable with the enhanced rating.
  • Astral Awareness; You may sense astral presences and disturbances without being astrally active.
  • Astral Sight; For those who don’t have it already. Those who do have it gain the ability to use astral sight without becoming astrally active.
  • Attunement (R); +1 magic rating. May be taken multiple times.
  • Centering (R); Focusing your concentration through some ritual. May be taken multiple times to expand it’s applicability.
  • Divination; Scrying through astral space or via various foci skills.
  • Endowment; Channeling your magic though others.
  • Grounding; Reduces the effect of excess energy handling.
  • Lore; Accessing the akhasic record. Allows astral quests for general information.
  • Mastery (R); Gain an advanced mystic “technique” associated with one of seven magical skills (Below). May be taken many times.
  • Metamorphosis (R); Undergo, or progress in, a mystic change. May be taken multiple times.
  • Unification; Effect melding, for improved group magics.
  • Insanity (Threat); Provides a potency boost dependent on the depths of your madness.

Astral Access Powers 

  • Astral Gate; As per the free spirit power. This may be used on yourself.
  • Awareness; You may automatically sense environmental and astral disturbances and landscapes in a wide radius.
  • Dreamgate (5); The ability to astrally project into dreamworlds.
  • Freedom (12); Becoming a being of pure spirit.
  • Loremaster; Gaining Karma through Ritual very slowly.
  • Manifestation (3); Creating a physical form for yourself.
  • Masking; The ability to disguise your aura and foci.
  • Metaphysics (R); Enhanced abilities and speed on the astral plane.
  • Metaplane Access (R); The ability to go on astral quests.
  • Possessing; The ability to take over other creature’s bodies.
  • Psychometry; The ability to detect the traces left on physical items by astral disturbances and interpret them.
  • Sheltering (7); The ability to sustain spirits inside yourself.
  • Worldwalking (Threat); Allows the user to open portals for spirits and entities from the metaplanes without having to be able to successfully anchor them to the material plane.

 Conjuration Powers

  • Blessing; The ability to summon beneficient energies.
  • Circle Casting; The ability to conjure arcane constructs.
  • Cleansing; The ability to banish residual magical energies.
  • Compelling (3); The ability to command embodied spirits.
  • Gathering; Summoning extra power to back another effect.
  • Hosting; The ability to let a spirit temporarily inhabit your body and enhance your abilities.
  • Invoking (R); Allows the user to conjure “great form” spirits.
  • Naming (12); The ability to deduce, or bestow, true names.
  • Oathbinding (5); The ability to magically “seal” a bargian.
  • Pacting; Allows the creation of a link with a willing free spirit that enhances the abilities of both parties.
  • Tolling (7); The ability to contact major magical beings.
  • Transcending (R); The ability to summon a new spirit type.
  • Entities (Threat); Allows the user to contact and summon spirits which have no common mental frame of reference to use as a linking point. This is rarely a good idea.

Enchantment Powers 

  • Anchoring; The ability to bind spells to a physical item.
  • Artifice (R); The ability to create advanced magical foci. This may be taken repeatedly to acquire ever-more advanced techniques.
  • Biomanipulation (7); The ability to permanently transform living beings.
  • Bloodbinding; The ability to make a spell irreversible by giving up a point of magic to it.
  • Ceremonial Magic; The ability to attempt to cause unique, massively-powerful, magical effects.
  • Charmsmith; Allows the user to tap into ambient mana to reduce the cost of major enchantments and allow the creation of extremely minor charms without karma expenditure.
  • Energization (12); The ability to enhance or act as a focus.
  • Feng Shui. Allows the user to rearrange or aspect power lines and nexi by rearranging and manipulating the landscape.
  • Focus Block; The ability to neutralize foci.
  • Linking (3); The ability to set up “instant” astral links. For SR3 there is an advanced version which allows magic wielders to use the link of an active focus to transmit spells to or from astral space. This requires a minimum initiate grade of 5.
  • Quickening (R); The ability to make spells self-sustaining. This may be taken more than once to reduce the cost or to make the spells more difficult to break.
  • Transmutation (5); Mastery of the philosopher’s stone.
  • Sacrificing (Threat). The ability to obtain mana and karma (for limited purposes) by draining it from others. This usually kills them even if the rite used normally wouldn’t. Unfortunately, draining such resources from an unwilling victim invariably corrupts both the power and the results.

Enhancement Powers 

  • Adaption (3); The ability to modify your abilities over time.
  • Containment; The ability to draw a spirit into physical form.
  • Empathic Healing; The ability to take on other’s wounds.
  • Focus Use (5); The ability to use power foci – among others.
  • Heroism; The ability to draw power from your reputation as a noble, heroic, figure.
  • Imbuement; The ability to imbue an inanimate object with a portion of your essence, making it a part of yourself.
  • Inspiration; The ability to tap into ideas as well as power.
  • Metabolic Control; The ability to alter your body processes.
  • Mindlink (R); The ability to imbue another creature with a bit of your essence, creating a permanent psychic link between you.
  • Stunts (R); The ability to use powers in new and unusual ways, albeit only in brief bursts.
  • Touch of Life (12); Unification with the planet’s life forces.
  • Transference (7); The ability to lend someone else your powers.
  • Villainy (Threat); The ability to draw power from having a reputation as a villain, being feared, and intimidating people – thus allowing you to continue the process. Oddly enough, the power of Villainy can be easily renounced, but is so tempting that this rarely works for long.

Sorcery Powers 

  • Absorption; The ability to absorb incoming magic to use to empower your own.
  • Disjunction (12); Disrupting the astral/physical interface.
  • Duplication (5); Deducing the formula of observed spells.
  • Extension; Making spells briefly self-sustaining.
  • Maintaining (R); Reduces penalties for sustaining spells. This ability may be taken repeatedly to continue reducing penalties.
  • Matrix; The ability to “filter out” background counts.
  • Psychic Reservoir (R); The ability to absorb or defer drain. This ability may be taken repeatedly.
  • Reflecting; The ability to turn mmagic against it’s caster.
  • Severing; The ability to break astral links.
  • Shielding; Enhanced spell defence.
  • Trigger (3); The ability to save cast spells for later use.
  • Will Force (7); The ability to compose spells “on the fly”.
  • Corruption (Threat); The ability to tap into the distorted mana generated by suffering to strengthen your magic (and, incidently, damage your mind).

Thaumaturgy Powers

  • Accumulation (3); The ability to accumulate spiritual favors quickly.
  • Bestowal; The ability to draw on the skills associated with one of your patron spirits.
  • Channeling; The ability to funnel magic through others.
  • Compact (R); A permanent pact link a very powerful spirit which grants a permanent spell effect. This may be taken repeatedly.
  • Consecration (12); The ability to link items with spirits.
  • Countermagic; The ability to ground out magical energy.
  • Guardian; You become the physical anchorpoint for one or more lesser spirits in the service of your patron.
  • Guidance; Advice and wyrd.
  • Miraculum (5); The ability to “purchase” major mystic effects.
  • Prophecy (7); Reading the “currents” of the metaplanes. .
  • Resistances (R); Immunities and innate powers.
  • Spellweaving; The ability to tap into the background count for purposes appropriate to its origin.
  • Infernalism (Threat); The ability to tap into the conceptual metaplanes, gaining their powers in exchange for appropriate services.

Witchcraft Powers

  • Aura; Enhancing or Suppressing background counts.
  • Beglamourment (R); Magical enhancement of social skills. This may be taken repeatedly to increase the effect or to extend the range of skills affected.
  • Brewing; Reducing target numbers with ritual.
  • Domain; Increased power within a limited compass.
  • Dowsing; Remotely locating magical forces.
  • Guardianship; The art of protecting areas from magic.
  • Magebane; The art of suppressing magic.
  • Mysterium; Suppressing the traces of your existence.
  • Poppetry; The art of using symbolic, nymic, and physical links
  • Spirit Link; Finding a suitable companion.
  • Sustaining (R); Reducing penalties for maintaining magics.
  • Wild Magic; Reducing target numbers by losing control.
  • Hagriding (Threat); The art of tapping into other people’s minds and energies to augment your own. Sadly, this tends to lead to schizophrenia.

Shadowrun Penumbra: Edges and Flaws

   Most of the edges and flaws were originally “Advantages and Disadvantages” that made a series of adjustments to the priority system for SR1, effectively treating the “A” priority as 5 build points, the “B” as 4, and so on. Each advantage cost a level from a priority and each disadvantage boosted one. Naturally enough, those costing two or three levels were quite powerful and the system was overly granular. They were changed to accommodate a point-buy system at 6 points per priority level in 1994. This allowed for weaker Advantages and Disadvantages and most of the more extreme advantages were toned down a bit and reduced in price. When the 2’nd edition Shadowrun Companion appeared in 1996 the list got renamed to “Edges and Flaws” and a few items got added, revised, or renamed to maintain compatibility for transferred characters. It hasn’t changed much since then. A much better formatted version is available in the character-creation PDF for our local games, but a couple of the players have requested posting them (and some other material I may get to later) online for easy access – so here they are.

General Rules

   1) A 60-point base character may not expend more then 66 points on his or her basic setup – Resources, Skills, Attributes, Magic and Race. Any additional points from Flaws must be spent buying Edges. In general, the basic character setup may not be upgraded by more then 10%. Thus a 30-point character would be restricted to 3 points of upgrades.

   2) No more then six points may be spent on any single edge, or be gained from any single flaw. Edges and Flaws with noted limits may not be taken more then once to exceed those limits. Similarly, the same or similar flaws cannot be stacked to get more then six points from a particular problem. For example, taking several minor phobias simply increases the rating from “uncommon” to “common” – for +1 point.

   3) Characters may take up to (Point base/6) points worth of flaws without penalty. Beyond that point their value is halved. Flaws that are required, or encouraged, by the GM are exempt from halving. Commonly exempted flaws include Detailed Background, Record Keeping, and various “Heroic” Quicks and Compulsions. Racial modifiers are automatically exempt.

   4) Most flaws can be bought off, and some edges can be added, after character creation. This requires appropriate roleplaying events, the expenditure of karma equal to ten times the “value” of the edge/flaw, whatever procedures the GM deems necessary, and the permission of the GM. Of course, the GM can simply award edges and flaws as he wishes.

   5) Some items can be bought with either resources or points. Simply use whatever method best suits your character.

   6) General Flaws are rated according to how often they come into play (Uncommon -1, Common -2, Very Common -3, Constant -4), and the severity of their effects (Mild -, Moderate -1, Severe -2, and Lethal -3). The maximum is, of course, -6; anybody with a constant lethal flaw starts off dead. The value of flaws may vary from character to character; blindness might be no hindrance at all to an adept with some special enhanced senses, a modest nuisance to someone with astral sight, some trouble for a decker or rigger, or a severe hindrance for a warrior.

Common Edges And Flaws :

Accursed; A general flaw. This could involve the enmity of some vastly powerful entity, some permanent spell (REALLY rare) or (For awakened types) suffering from a strange geasa, transformation, or critter style “weakness”. It can also be used to represent things like hereditary madness (Sp).

Addiction; A general flaw. Rated according to just how bad the cravings and effects are, and as to how often you have to take it. You can be “addicted” to drugs, raw power, bloodshed, medications, sex, food, and many other things (Sp).

Adrenaline Surge; Reroll initiative 6’s, “+1” to target numbers when used, not while decking/rigging or with other enhancements (2).

Allergy. A general flaw. Exposure to some item/situation/ effect causes problems for you. Mild reactions are typically +1 to target numbers. Moderate; +2, including resisting damage from such items (due to pain). Severe; As moderate, plus 1 box of damage per minute of exposure. Lethal; +4 to target numbers and the stimulus acts as a poison (Sp).

Ambidexterity; No target number penalty for using off hand (1), may use two weapons without penalties but must split dice normally (2), +1 per +1 base die with the second weapon, secondary dice may not exceed primary weapon dice (Sp)

Amnesia; Know skills and abilities but not past (-2), doesn’t get to see their own character sheet (-5) (Sp).

Arcane Affinity; You gain extra arcane energies from particular circumstances. +1 die on all tests using any one/two/ three magical skill(s) for each that applies; Season, Week, Location, and type of Terrain. 2/3/4 points (Sp).

Astral Chameleon/Impressions; -1 to signature force ratings and +2 to target numbers to assense it. “Impressions” is a flaw which reverses these modifiers (2).

Astral Hazing: You generate your own low-level background count, normally rated at Essence/2 or Magic/2 after a few hours to build up (-5).

Astral Sight; User must be at least magically latent (3)

Attribute Bonuses/Penalties; Character gains a bonus – or takes a penalty – on any one attribute in some specific situation. This costs +/- 1 per point, with a maximum of +/- 2 points. The cost of this edge is doubled if the modified value exceeds normal limits (1/2).

Bad Karma; Character needs double the “usual” karma to increase his/her karma pool (-5)

Berserker; Sample composite Edge/Flaw; Includes Combat Monster, Attribute Bonuses/Penalties (+2 Str, +2 Bod, -1 Int when in combat or in a rage), having to make Int rolls to avoid attacking friends who get in the way (-3) and High Pain Tolerance-III (Only while in a rage, -2 points). Net; -3+3-3+6-2. Included as an example of how to build what you want; not recommended as a simple edge, since it would let you exceed the usual point limits without penalty (1).

Bestial Nature; Roll Will(6) to avoid giving in to instincts if a strong stimulus comes up (-6).

Biorejection; You cannot use cyberware and may only use cultured bioware. This is only a -2 flaw for the magically active, 0 if already suffering from some similar restriction (-5).

Blandness; You blend into crowds. +1 on the target numbers of all attempts to track, shadow, or physically locate you (2).

Bloodthirsty; Take no prisoners – or get rid of them as soon as they’re no longer useful – shoot to kill, disdain stun weapons – and generally be lethal. This usually gets you killed eventually (-3).

Bonus Contacts; Extra L1/L2/L3 Contact, 1/2/3 points. +1-2 for extremely influential/powerful contacts, +1 for far-flung contacts (EG; In other countries), “Floating” contacts – L1 only, available once per adventure – cost 2 points each. It requires a Chr check, at a GM-set target number, to locate a specific type of “floating” contact. Bonus contacts can also be used for mentors and such (Sp).

Bonus Dice; You get extra dice in some situation(s). Uncommon/Common/Very Common situations cost a base of 1/2/3 per die. If the impact of the roll is usually Minor/Major/ Vital add 0/1/2. If the roll is usually actively opposed by another roll add +1. Half cost (rounded up) for knowledge skills. Often bought for skill groups (Sp).

Borrowed Time; You are inevitably going to die in 3D6 months (-6)

Combat Monster; It takes you 3 turns to stop fighting if you try to stop before winning. Make a Willpower (6) roll to reduce this time by 1 turn per success (-3).

Combat Paralysis; First initiative roll is minimal. +2 surprise penalty (-4)

Common Sense; The GM should warn you when you’re being overly foolish (2).

Competent; You have a reputation for getting the job done – for a price. Anyone attempting to hire you will offer at least twice the fee they’d otherwise consider, will likely be accommodating, and is unlikely to try and cheat you (3).

Connected; You have a contact that will either buy or sell (For 2 points) or both (5 points) some type of item at the “best” price (Street or Base) for the character (Sp).

Cranial Bomb (or any similar control system); This comes in a lot of variants, but basically someone owns you (-6).

Cursed Karma; Roll 1D6 when spending karma. On a “1” the result is the opposite of what you were trying for (-6).

Cybertolerance/Biotolerance; Your body adapts unusually well to cyberware/bioware . Reduce all cyberware essence costs/ bioware body index costs by 20% (3).

Danger Sense; You can “feel” danger whether or not you have any reasonable way to detect it. This requires a successful magic roll with a target number of six, you must be at least magically latent to take this edge (3).

Dark Secret; You will be in deep trouble if this gets out. You will have to spend time and effort every little bit to conceal it (-2).

Day Job; You have a job – and a paper trail. The responsibilities and problems that this causes are Minor/Major/ Extensive for -2/-3/-5 points. Salaries of 1250/2500/6000 NY/Month cost 0/1/2, jobs that supply slightly/moderately/ extremely useful perks/contacts cost an extra 1/2/3 points. Note that many corporate jobs pay less cash and more in perks such as provided housing, health, and day care (Sp).

Dedication; You’re fanatically fixated on a particular ideal or philosophy. Half the karma cost of developing associated skills and abilities. Other items cost 50% extra. Failing to live up to your beliefs and goals will cost you 50-100% of karma earned during the offending session. Such paths must be discussed in detail with the GM, and often leave those who follow them with very little freedom. Fanaticism is like that (5).

Delusions; The world that you live in does not quite agree with the one that most people live in. The GM will distort the information you’re give appropriately. A general flaw, and very dangerous (Sp).

Detailed Background; Your contacts have names and descriptions, you have a family, some history, motivations, habits, interests, a personal description, where they live – and some background on where you got your equipment/training – written up for the GM. This will probably take several sessions, GM’s should put up with the delay (-4).

Dice Penalties; You have a hard time with some rolls. This can only be applied to skills/rolls you normally make without penalty; you can’t get points for penalties on things you don’t use. Per -1 die on common/very common rolls -1/-2 points. Extra -1/-2 per die for rolls of great/vital importance, and extra -1 if this forces the character to roll in otherwise automatic situations. (EG; Computer Illiterates have a hard time with many common situations). Reduced knowledge skills are worth half as much – if that. Idiocy is easy (Sp).

Direct Purchase; You needn’t pay karma/force points to bond any foci bought during character creation; their enchanter bonded them directly to you. Of course, the enchanter knows all about them (3).

Distinctive; -1 bonus to track, tail, or physically locate (-1).

Dual Natured; You are permanently astrally active. If you’re also Blocked you are present in astral space but cannot perceive it. Not available if your type is already dual natured (-6).

Educated/Uneducated; “+/- 1” to knowledge skills multiplier per +/- point spent. Maximum of +/- 5 points. Those with penalties of -2 or more can’t take academic skills, and get no background skills. Illiterate characters get an extra -1 point, but no R/W skills. If specialized in a particular field (Linguistics, Physical Sciences, Etcetera) add 1.5 to the multiplier per point spent (Sp).

Enemies. Minor/Major/Outrageous enemies are worth -1/-2/-3. If they’re truly dedicated to “getting you” they’re worth twice that. Watchers, Rivals, and would-be “owners” are only worth half as much (Sp).

Enhanced Sense; Often low-light sight vision, but use your imagination (2).

Enhanced Special Attribute; Body Overflow, Stun Monitor (Normal penalties), Stun Monitor (Vrs Drain only, with no penalties); 1/1, Physical Monitor (Normal penalties) and Reaction +1 per 2. Physical Monitor (No penalties) and Magic Rating +1 per 3. Essence +1 per 4. These can also be reduced by irreversible damage of various types, but such flaws are only worth half as much as the edges are (Sp).

Essence Loss; You loose one essence point per month. While you can replace lost “essence” by draining it from others, you can not raise your score more then two points above your base and you must fulfill the usual requirements of the essence drain power (-5).

Exceptional Attribute; Increase race-modified limit by +1 or +2 points (2/5).

Extra Spell Force Points; 3 per point expended (1-6).

Flashbacks; Willpower (6) to avoid 1d6 minutes of incapacitation. Confer with the GM to come up with appropriate triggers. This can be used to represent a wide variety of disorders (-4).

Focused Concentration; Penalty for sustaining spells is reduced to +1 to target numbers per spell, instead of +2 (2).

Freakish; Very Weird Looking/What IS That?/MY GOD KILL IT! gets your character -2/-4/-6 points (Sp).

Free Time; Character has had up to three free months to work on projects before entering play. Lifestyle costs apply (2).

Freeware; You get something for free. Minor/Notable/Major Items cost 1/2/3 points, a group of related items costs 4. Alphaware and high security items cost +1 point. Betaware costs +2 points (Sp).

Geneware; You have .5/1 BI points worth of innate bioware. It’s free and doesn’t take stress or show up as artificial. Reducing the BI costs to cultured levels costs +1 point, reducing your BI costs +1 point per -.5, and side benefits (Such as “Menemonic Enhancement” that boost your initial knowledge skills and/or reduce the cost of learning spells, cost +1 or +2 points – if the GM permits them) (2/3).

Ghoul; You’re infected – and have come through fairly well. This can also be used to set up various other “modified” characters (6).

Good Looking/Ugly; Opposite sex NPC’s start off “friendly”, -2 social target numbers versus opposite sex, -1 versus same sex. As a flaw they start off “suspicious” and you get reversed target number modifiers. 2 points as an edge, -2 as a flaw (Sp).

Good Reputation; -1/2/3 on your social skill target numbers; 1/2/4 (Sp).

Gremlins; Technical gear breaks down on you on a 2D6 roll of 2 whenever you use it. For -1 it operates at a -1 penalty until you bang on it, for -2 it quits until you bang on it, for -3 it gets a -2 modifier until repaired – and for -4 it ceases to work until it gets extensively rebuilt (Sp).

Has A Life; You gain one point of karma per month automatically (3).

High Pain Tolerance; Ignore the penalties for one box of damage – both physical and mental – per level. Costs 2 points per level (Sp).

Holy Man; This isn’t simply being a priest of some sort; that’s covered by Memberships and Reputations. This is a fervent or fanatic belief in something – possibly even yourself – sufficient to grant you magical bonuses. Characters may elect to gain a potency pool, at one die per point expended, or to increase the effective forces of any spells they cast at +1 per 3 points expended (Sp).

Home Ground; Pick a particular location – or rarely- encountered environment – and get a -1/-2 to active/ knowledge skill target #’s while you’re there (2).

Human-Looking; Elves, Dwarves, and Orks only. No metavariants. Character appears human, and so does not suffer from prejudice (1).

Human Mindprint; Gives an “alien” character – such as an insect spirit – a comprehensible mind. Character cannot “Summon”, “Share Minds”, or “Consume” other spirits and will not be trusted by his or her “Original” type (5).

Hung Out To Dry; Character starts with no contacts. -4 Illiterate; Only get (Int*4) initial knowledges and no “academic” knowledges, +4 to computer target numbers, max computer skill 1 (-3).

Immunity; Agent or Effect Is Uncommon/Common/Very Common 2/3/4, effects are Mild/Moderate/Severe -1/0/1 (Sp).

Inability; A general flaw. There are things that you just can’t handle. Ignore them if you can; you’ll need to roll for normally- automatic actions, anything which normally requires a roll automatically fails (Sp).

Increased Target Numbers; You have a hard time with some rolls. This can only be applied to skills and rolls you can normally make without penalty; you can’t get points for penalties on skills that you don’t use. Per +1 to targets on common/very common rolls -1/-2 points, 0/-1/-2 on rolls of minor/moderate/ vital impact. Penalties on uncommon rolls or knowledge skills are worth little or nothing (Sp).

Impulsive; Willpower (6) to avoid jumping into things (-2).

Infirm; Reduce physical attribute maximums by 1 to 5 to gain the same number of points (Sp).

Initiate; Character starts off as a L1 initiate. L2 +5, L3 +6, -2 to the cost of any particular level if the character accepts an ordeal (Asceticism, Familiar, Geas, and Oath only). Each level taken counts as a separate edge (4+).

Innate Weapons; Per Razors/Spurs 1/2. Retractable or Inobvious (+1), Exotic (Damage is from venom, electricity, etc. +2 points) (Sp).

Jack Itch; Chip, Data, and Smartgun `jacks make you itch. +1 to target numbers per (Will) minutes connected. This fades gradually once you disconnect (-1).

Jonah; You bring bad luck. Reduce the karma pools of everyone (including enemies) within 12 meters by -2 (1 minimum). Your entire group will attract occasional bad breaks for no good reason (-6).

Legal Defense; Level 1/2/3 for 2/4/6 points. “+2” to target #’s for prosecution, investigation, and official interference per level, half that for immediate stuff. L1 includes things like a “private detectives” licence, L2 legal enforcement powers, and L3 something like a security agency license. You’re likely to end up owing your backers some rather large favors however (Sp).

Legal Problems; A general flaw. Common legal “problems” include being property, youth, being wanted, having no legal rights, being a known “suspicious character”, and so on (Sp).

Liar; You alienate your contacts at a great rate. They usually “last” for about 12 meetings and will not deal with you thereafter (-2).

Lifestyle; The character doesn’t have to pay for his lifestyle. A “Free” low / medium / high / luxury / hospitalized lifestyle costs 1/2/3/5/6 points. Supporting up to 4 dependents costs an extra point (Sp).

Longevity; You age very slowly for your racial type. Characters with this ability may be very elderly; such age can be represented by various other edges and flaws (1).

Low Pain Tolerance; Extra -1 penalty for wounds, per monitor affected (-4).

Luck; Increase initial karma pool by 2/3/4 for 2/4/6. User may roll for a “lucky break” (GMO Target) using 1/2/3 dice up to three times per session (Sp).

Magical Talent; Requires magic 6/D+. Inherent ability to cast a single spell (Force Max = Magic, Base Skill = Int, Can use magic pool. 2/3/4 points depending on the spell). Conjure Watchers (Base Skill = Magic, normal rules, 3), Conjure any one type of Elemental or Nature Spirit (Skill = Magic, normal rules, 5 points), Physical Adept power (Cost * 4) points (6 maximum), invoke a single, GM-selected, Thaumaturgic effect once per day, 3-6 points depending on the effect, employ a single Witchcraft subeffect (Skill = Magic) 5 (Sp).

Magic Resistance; +1 die / 2 points to resist spells. Half cost if uncontrolled (Can’t be shut off. User cannot accept “voluntary” spells or be magically active) (Sp).

Makes Friends Easily; Half the karma cost of “buying” new contacts (3).

Mana Focus; May sustain spells without target number penalty by temporarily binding one point of your magic rating into doing so (3).

Membership; Character belongs to some organization. This ranges from a -6 flaw to a +6 edge depending the on the group. Possible membership benefits include Funding, Equipment, Use of Facilities, Medical Care, Backup (Physical, Arcane, or Legal), Training, Extra Contacts (+1-2 each), and Social Advantages. Difficulties may include Enemies, Dues, Magical Strictures, Assorted Duties, being On File, Reporting (Or turning in interesting stuff), Beliefs, and assorted Special Requirements (-1-2 points each) (Sp).

Miser; Character must make a Will (6+) check to spend money, or otherwise expend resources. They’re often greedy as well (-3).

Mysterious Past; You have implanted cyberware, compulsions, odd associates/family, or something similar, that you don’t know about and which will doubtless give you trouble in the future (-3).

Natural Armor; Obvious, but useful. +1/2 Impact and Ballistic (3/5)

Natural Hardening; You get 1/2 points of innate hardening for (4/6)

Night Terrors; You cannot really rest. Roll 1D6-3 each morning and start off with that much stun damage. Such “damage” cannot be regained without at least two hours sleep and another roll (-2).

No Identity; You have no records or local history at all. Most characters with this flaw also have “Hung Out To Dry”, many throw in “Amnesia” as well. It will be very easy for you to disappear (-2).

Obligations; Dependents, debts, duties, oaths, owing plenty of large favors, ongoing expenses, etc. These are enforced somehow – whether by internal drives or by large men named Guido. Uncommon/Common/Very Common -1/-2/-3, Minor/ Major/Severe Obligations grant an extra 0/-1/-2 points, extra -1 if it’s an easy “plot hook” for the GM (Sp).

Oblivious; +1 to all perception target numbers (-2).

Offensive; A general disadvantage. You annoy people. This may be limited to particular groups, but a few people seem to be able to annoy animals, aliens, and AI’s as well, and some can even do it through the mail or just while attempting to make contact (Sp).

On File; Some group has fairly decent records on you. Such a group may be benign (-2) or hostile (-4), and can be of little (A school, +2), Moderate (A Corp, 0), or Great (Megacorp, Government Agency, +2), size and/or influence. Not ALWAYS bad, but… (Sp).

Package Deal; You get a GM-set list of benefits and limitations. For example, undercover cops get police contacts, training, gear, some special legal privileges, and a salary. On the other hand they have to meet minimum standards, obey the law, fill out reports, and so on. Such packages cost 2 points. Special packages cover things like a rigger who escaped some losing battle with his tank intact or corporate special enforcers. Big benefits, big problems, costs a base of 5 points (2/5).

Paraplegic; Paralyzed legs. Half combat pool (-3).

Perceptive; -1 target number bonus on all perception rolls (3).

Perfect Time Sense; You don’t need a watch (1).

Photographic Memory; You don’t forget things. +1 point to add 1/2 the points in this edge to your knowledge skill multiplier, +2 to also reduce the cost of learning knowledge skills by 2, and +3 to also reduce the cost of learning new spells by two karma points (2+).

Physical Limitation; A “Generic” flaw. Includes various sensory impairments, such as blindness, deafness, color/”night” blindness, and so on. Compensating factors will, as always, reduce the points you get for taking physical limitations (Sp).

Poor Link; Ritual sorcery targeting you gets a +2 target number (2).

Primitive; You may not start with any technical skills or gear, and must pay +2 karma per level to learn technical skills (-3).

Psychological Quirk; Common/Very Common/Constant appearance for -1/-2/-3 base, Mild/Moderate/Severe results/ restrictions are worth an extra -1/-2/-3. Examples include Honor, Delusions, Compulsions and/or Obsessions, Chivalry, Greed, Amnesia, Flashbacks, Pacifism, Vindictive, Braggart, Elf Poser, Etc. Failure to abide by quirks reduces your karma awards. “Lost” karma automatically goes towards buying them off. Quirks also include phobias and such. While these have a greater effect at any given moment, they can be temporarily overcome without karma penalty via Int or Wil rolls. Phobias cause target number penalties when invoked (Mild; +1. Moderate; +2, Must roll to confront stimulus), and Severe (You’re useless. +2 to your target numbers even the effect is “resisted”). Certain quirks will provide minor bonuses/penalties to social rolls. “Positive” traits – Chivalry, Heroism, Etc – gets a bonus on “social” target numbers equal to 1/2 the value of the flaw. “Negative” traits – braggart, elf poser, etc – can produce similar penalties (Sp).

Public Identity; This can be helpful at times, but it’s usually a hindrance. People know who you are and where to find you (-3).

Quadriplegic; You’re permanently paralyzed and must be constantly hospitalized (-6).

Rapid Learner; Gain one extra karma point per session. Spirits may take this edge, thus gaining one point per session (5).

Record Keeping; You keep notes on events, NPC’s, and so on, for the GM and the other players. Since this is helpful, it’s worth (-2).

Reduced Target Number; You have an easier time with some rolls. Uncommon/Common/Very Common rolls cost a base of 1/2/3 per -1. If the impact of the roll is usually Minor/Major/ Vital add 0/1/2. If the roll is usually actively opposed by another roll add +1. Half cost (rounded up) for knowledge skills. Limit of -4 (Sp).

Registered Equipment; You’re legal and have all relevant permits. This is rare in the shadows (6).

Reputation; +/-1 on all social target numbers per point gained/spent on this flaw/edge. Maximum of -2 bonus, +4 penalty. Can alsobe used for obnoxious habits, a soothing voice, etc, etc, etc (Sp).

Scorched; You’ve been afflicted with psychotropic IC (-1).

Seeker; Lets a Hermetric mage or similar character follow a “totem” in the form of a “path” or philosophy. Take the totem modifiers and summon the nature spirits it gives an advantage on. If you want to get more complex then this, design something in consultation with your GM (4).

Sense Of Direction; You never get lost (1).

Sensitive System; Double cyberware essence costs (Or body index of bioware). Only -2 for magical characters (-3).

Simsense Vertigo; Simsense bothers you. +1 to target numbers and -1 to initiative when using such a item (including smartlinks). -2 for most characters, -4 for riggers or deckers (Sp).

Slow/Fleet Of Foot; +/- 1/2 to running multiplier for (+/- 2/5).

Spendthrift; You cannot hang onto money (-3).

Spirit Affinity/Bane; One type of nature spirit likes/dislikes (-2) you, and will probably remember you from summoning to summoning (2).

Split Personality; Requires magic 6+. You have (1D6/2) “extra” full personalities. Their skills, mental quirks, spells (If any) and even attributes (2x +1, 2x -1, limits apply) may vary, but must be advanced separately. You can switch back and forth with a Will (6) check – but may not roll more then once an hour, and may not spend karma on it. Your GM is entitled to call for such a roll to resist switching whenever he feels it’s appropriate. 6 points, -2 per NPC – and perhaps even hostile – personality you also host (Sp).

State Of The Art; You have access to advanced equipment. Reduce effective availability ratings by (3*Rating), 2+ permits access to betaware, 4+ permits access to deltaware, 6+ allows cybermancy and experimental gear (Or whatever you can talk the GM into) (Sp).

Status; You have Local/Citywide/National influence. Define the type of influence you have (Public Opinion, Legal, Political, Etc) and buy a skill in it. Common for reporters, rock stars, etc. This has a side benefit; it’s hard to make you quietly vanish; 2/4/6 (Sp).

Summoner; Treat spirits as if their force was (1/2/3) less then it actually is. Covers both summoning and banishing. 2/4/6 points (Sp).

Superior Surgery; Reduce the essence cost of one cybersystem by 20%. This is not cumulative with Cybertolerance (1).

Tactician; You can call for a break (2-5 minutes) to get a more detailed description of the area and to plan group strategy up to three times per session – even in the middle of a firefight. This also adds +2 points to the karma pool of any group the character joins (2).

Talisman; You bring good luck. You, and any friends within 12 meters get a +2 bonus on your karma pools (6).

Unlucky. In ways both small and large, the fates make your life miserable. No specific game effects, expect the GM to pick on you. Don’t complain that it’s unfair; you’re the one who took this (-5).

Unusual Background; You begin with access to exotic skills and/or equipment (4).

Vampire; This, like Berserker, is a composite edge, and is not available during character creation without special permission from the game master. Note that a vampire using its special abilities must expend essence points – albeit often in fractions of a point – to power them. They also have powerful instincts and are socially unacceptable. As usual for a composite flaw, if the character already has some of the flaws involved he or she must take additional flaws to compensate (6).

Vehicle Empathy; Any vehicle you’re directly controlling gets a -1 on it’s effective handling score (2).

Other Edges And Flaws :

   Various sourcebooks list quite a few more Edges and Flaws, but the vast majority fall under Attribute Bonuses/Penalties, Bonus Dice, Dice Penalties, and Increased, or Reduced Target Numbers. They deal with computer use, various types of system operations, resistance or the lack thereof to pathogens, toxins, or damage, educational modifiers to knowledge skill categories, healing injuries, athletics (and it’s minor specialities), resisting psychic attacks, dealing with animals and even simply fitting into new groups and situations. There were a group of specific edges and flaws dealing with waterborne activities, these can be covered by Geneware if anyone wants them.

Gandalfs and Balrogs: Wanderings In Middle-Earth

   For today, since I’ve converted a Balor, it’s time to convert the original characters. What would Gandalf and the original Balrog look like in Eclipse the Codex Persona (available in print HERE or in a shareware version HERE) Classless d20?

   When you do things like this, it’s always best to look at the original source material, rather than getting caught up in enthusiasm. I understand the temptation to make Gandalf an archmage of vast power, and the Balrog a nigh-unstoppable monster – I loved Tolkien’s works too – but that really isn’t the way he wrote them.

   Tolkien’s Middle-Earth was magic-poor. When you came right down to it, Gandalf – one of the Istari, and one of the most powerful mages in the world – mostly played minor tricks with smoke and fire. He made a few small explosions, some flaming pinecones, a blinding flash or two, and played with smoke rings (hardly a major spell, and probably just Prestidigitation). He tricked some trolls with Ventriloquism, Spoke with Animals, cast a Light spell and a Hold Portal spell in the mines of Moria, caused an arrow to burst into flame (possibly just a dramatic form of Block/Missile, rather than a spell, although it might have been Protection from Arrows), recalled Theoden to sanity (probably Dispel Magic or Remove Curse if it was actually anything more than a good Diplomacy skill check), broke a stone bridge he was standing on (Stone Shape), used Suggestion to keep his friends from attacking him thinking he was Sarumon, cast Hold Person on Wormtongue, and engaged in a bit of mind-to-mind communication (Message).

   Of course, he also held the Ring of Fire, which may have helped out a bit with the fire tricks. (It might have been quite a lot of help if we count it as being a Ring of Fire Elemental Command).

   Really, he never did much of anything magical which would have exceeded third or fourth level as a d20 spell, if that. No Flight, no Teleport, no Polymorph Self, no Passwall, no Flesh to Stone – and, for that matter, no major healing or Raise Dead.

   He did stand up to a Balrog in hand-to-hand, albeit while wielding a magical sword (which shattered the Balrog’s sword) – but that’s hardly a demonstration of wizardly power. For that matter, Tolkien’s Balrogs were big and powerful – but there’s not much indication of them having any magical powers beyond some personal enhancement, their innate tricks with fire (which a Ring of Fire Elemental Command would have made Gandalf virtually immune to) and the ability to counter Gandalfs Hold Portal spell (either Dispel Magic or just hitting it really hard). Rather dramatically, the door broke – and the chamber collapsed – rather than the door simply opening (a possible argument for the “hitting it really hard” theory). Of course, the place was none too stable anyway. We’ll get back to the Balrog a bit later – but there’s no indication that they’re all that powerful either.

   Gandalf did survive an extremely long fall – but it was into deep water, and people in the real world have been known to do that without benefit of any special powers at all. Want to say he had some sort of charm which reduced falling damage? It would probably need a longer duration than Feather Fall, but reducing instead of negating damage would justify a considerably longer duration. We’ll stick with the druidical theme and call it “Catfall” – level one again, and a pretty reasonable spell to have ready going into what was basically a gigantic dungeon.

   To convert Gandalf to Eclipse: The Codex Persona d20 rules we’ll want to buy the abilities he actually displayed – six to eight levels of druidical-style spellcasting (but not most of the other druidical powers), corrupted so as to leave him fatigued when he used much magic, as occurred in Moria), a bit of Innate Enchantment for a few minor tricks and protections to account for his being an Istari, a few combat skills – Base Attack Bonus, Block (Melee and Missile), weapons proficiencies, decent hit dice, and a Relic – that Ring of Fire – probably built a lot like that Ring of Elemental Command. I already covered his other equipment under the Charms and Talismans of the Rings section.

   Lets see now, what do we need to build Gandalf?

Race: Istari (30 CP [Character Points]/+0 ECL)

  • Innate Enchantment (L0: Detect Magic, Guidance [+1 Competence Bonus to Attacks, Saves, and Checks], Light, Message, Prestidigitation, Read Magic, and Resistance [+1 Resistance Bonus to Saves], L1: Mage Armor [+4 Armor Bonus], Shield [+4 Shield Bonus], Immortal Vigor [+12+2x Con Mod Bonus HP], Protection From Evil [+2 Deflection Bonus to AC and +2 Resistance Bonus to Saves versus attacks by evil creatures, Immunity to Possession], Speak with Animals, Ventriloquism, +2 Int, +2 Wis, and +2 Con, all use-activated, at caster level one, personal-only where relevant, 21 CP). Note that the Innate Enchantments may vary somewhat from one Istari to another. Normally they’d also need to pay 1616 XP to activate all of those abilities, but – since they’re being provided as a racial bonus and in due respect to the Istari – I’ll waive that. By the time they get to be of even a moderate level 1616 XP is no longer going to make much of a difference anyway.
  • Immunity to having his Innate Enchantments Dispelled (6 CP)
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (+1 SP/Level, 3 CP)

   Now that’s a fairly impressive race – but, in d20, most of those bonuses will not stack with items or protective spells you pick up later, which is somewhat limiting.

Now, for his personal powers:

  • Eight levels of Corrupted Druidical or Basic Clerical Spellcasting (43 CP). He’d have a modified spell list of course, trading out most of the healing spells and some of the nature-related stuff for a few of the wizard- or bard-style utility spells, but that’s pretty easy. As an alternative, we could use Hexcrafting – but that would require a bit too much explanation for an example.
  • Adept x2 (may buy Knowledge Skills at half price, 12 CP)
  • Block (Master Missile and Master Melee, DC 15 Reflex save to block an attack using an Attack of Opportunity, 24 CP)
  • +6 BAB (Warcraft, 36 CP)
  • +4 Fortitude (12 CP), +4 Reflex (12 CP), +8 Will (24 CP)
  • 36 SP (most of his skill points would come from a high intelligence and the racial bonus, 36 CP)
  • Proficiency with all Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP)
  • Privileges and Contacts (probably about 12 CP worth; he did seem to know all kinds of people and be welcome almost everywhere).
  • Combat Reflexes (he was pretty good at hacking up the goblins trying to get by him after all, and that will let him block attacks more often too).

   That’s 226 CP so far, exclusive of hit dice. So lets call him about level eight and buy d8 hit dice, for another 32 CP, making a total of 258 CP.

   Of course, he gets 16 bonus CP from Duties, another 16 from his Restrictions (no armor or dark magic), and he has some Disadvantages – Vows, a History, and being Hunted – for another 10.

   The base L8 allowance is 216 CP, so that gives us a total of 258 CP – just right. Of course, we still have his allotment of three level-based bonus feats and two bonus characteristic points to spend, plus a couple of magic items.

   Narya, The Ring of Fire, is a relic, and provides 30 points of Fire Resistance (Immunity: Common / Severe / Major [30 points], 9 CP), and several Inherent Spells: Produce Flame 4/Day, Flaming Sphere 2/Day, Pyrotechnics 2/Day, Wall of Fire 1/Day, and Flame Strike 1/Day, at a net cost of 30 CP – however, as a Relic, there’s a divisor of 6, making the whole thing worth 6 CP if you made it yourself. Since it was a present, however, it doesn’t cost any of Gandalfs personal CP.

   We could give it some more subtle abilities – bestowing a low-grade Immunity to Aging and Weariness, plus a Blessing effect to extend those powers about the wearer, some mystic-artist style abilities to let it inspire heroics and “rekindle hearts to the valor of old”, and have it give a lesser boost to the user’s fire magic abilities – but honestly, this is a d20 version of Gandalf, and most d20 players would call that a “Ring of Bardic Powers” not a “Ring of Fire”. It just wouldn’t be d20 without some provision for blasting things.

   Similarly, we could give call it “Corrupted” – opening the user to the awareness and influence of whoever wears the One Ring and reducing the net cost to 4 CP – but that will never actually come into play unless all is lost anyway, so it really isn’t a problem worth giving a bonus for.

   As for Glamdring, it can either be taken as a Talisman, as a 3-point Relic (Imbuement, Improved and Focused, making it a +1 Holy Longsword at the moment, albeit with the potential for further improvement), or as a +1 Holy Longsword (18,000 GP – a bit more than a L8 character could usually be expected to have in items, but hardly outside the bounds of possibility). I’ll go with the talismanic version, for consistency with the earlier Charms and Talismans of the Rings post. That makes it +1 magic and good-aligned – still fairly impressive in a low-magic world. Given the way that it shattered the Balrogs sword, you might want to count it as being adamant as well – but Gandalf never simply hacked his way through stone with it, so that might not be entirely suitable. Maybe he just knows Sunder, or the Game Master felt that partially disarming the Balrog would make for a more balanced fight – or the disadvantages of overheating your weapons (as listed with the Balrog conversion, below), just happened to come up.

   As for attributes, a nice, high Intelligence and Constitution are in order, and a pretty good Charisma, Wisdom, and Dexterity seem reasonable – but we have no evidence that his Strength was more than average. He was sent on a tough job though, and was especially chosen by the Vala for it. I’d presume they chose someone well above average, so we’ll use point buy attributes with the 32-point allowance for a “High Powered Campaign”. I prefer dice myself, but this is something of a design exercise. So: Str 10 (2 Points), Int 16 (Effective 18, 10 points), Wis 12 (Effective 14, 4 Points), Con 14 (Effective 16, 6 Points), Dex 14 (6 Points), and Chr 12 (4 Points). He has tramped across a continent and a couple of thousand years of history, so we’ll put those +2 level-based bonus points into Con, for an effective 18. If you don’t like that, put them into Wisdom or something instead.

   So: we can expect an average of 92 HP, Saves of Reflex +8, Fortitude +10, and Will +12 (with an extra +1 against effects with evil origins), two sword attacks at +10 and +5 for 1d8+1 [Crit 19-20/x2], three Attacks of Opportunity (these can also be used to block incoming ranged and melee attacks on a 7+), an Armor Class of 20 (22 versus evil creatures), 91 Skill Points (and half cost on Knowledges, so quite a lot of them), some useful – if fairly minor – innate talents, a fair selection of spells, and a ring of fire to fall back on.

   Use the three bonus feats to buy whatever you think is a must-have for him. I’d probably get a +2 boost to his Reflex Saves (making him more durable by improving his chances to Block, as well as helping him evade some attacks) or Augment Attack (+1d6 damage with swords versus evil creatures), and perhaps Improved Initiative (he always did seem to react pretty quickly) and either Spontaneous Metamagic/Quickening or Reflex Action and Evasive (Reflex Action specialized in Spellcasting plus immunity to Attacks of Opportunity when casting a spell using a reflexive action) to cover his speaking a “Word of Power”. We don’t need to buy “Returning” because – although he returned from his apparent near-certain doom – it’s because he was “sent back”, not under his own power.

   That’s pretty formidable for an eighth level character. It may actually be too formidable – Gandalf was known for wisdom, not for hacking his way through dozens of enemies or for gratuitous use of his magic – but d20 characters are virtually always known for just those things, so I’ll let it go. If you want to be more “realistic” about it, cut down on the “Block” ability and buy some more skills or something.

   Not powerful enough? Why not? The Fellowship had trouble enough with a troll and a few orcs. Bilbo and company were captured by Goblins and treed by a bunch of wolves. OK, they were big, clever, and malevolent wolves – but, like it or not, a dozen or so eighth-level characters should go through a modest army of wolves and goblins without breaking into a sweat. Most of the Fellowship can reasonably be pegged around level four or so – where a swarm of goblins or wolves is still a serious menace, even if you do have an eighth level protector along.

Now, what would the Balrog look like?

   As noted earlier, Tolkien’s Balrogs are were strong and powerful, wielded tolerably potent flame-effects in personal combat, and were either strong enough, or had enough ability to resist or dispel magic, to burst a magically-locked heavy stone door. They may or may not have actually been “large” creatures, but it’s a fair enough guess. They certainly weren’t colossal things that could have squashed the entire fellowship by falling on them, despite the movie.

   Of course, Gandalf killed one single-handed – albeit after a lengthy battle – and plenty of them died in the Silmarillion. Various elven heroes took them out, and at times the elves fought them by the swarm. They were lesser foes than dragons, although they were “cloaked in darkness and terrifying”.

   While there are one or two places in the Silmarillion where Balrogs “passed over” a land, there’s no indication that the phrase means more than when I “pass over” a road – and there are several instances of them dying when cast down from a height. The Balrog in Moria may have had a shadow about it that “reached out like two vast wings” – but it leaped a fissure rather than flying across it. Balrogs don’t fly. When slain, they do not return. They do not wield any direct external magics greater than Gandalfs – which, as shown earlier, are not all that potent by d20 standards.

   Still, they are easily capable of dominating swarms of Orcs, are more than a match for a party of low-level adventurers, and have spawned many terrifying legends amongst the normal – first and second level – population.

   That still wouldn’t be that much to go on – except that we’ve got a reasonable conversion for Gandalf to refer to. Since he turned out to be level eight, it seems reasonable that his apparently near-equal opponent should also be level eight. Gandalf may have been weary when they fought – but that doesn’t really translate into d20, just as there are no penalties in d20 for wounds.

   Level eight gives us a base of 216 character points to work with. Of course, just as with Gandalf, there are some bonuses; although the Balrog presumably lost the points it would have gained from its Duties to Melkor when it fled his service, it still has three sets of Restrictions – being blatantly monstrous and evil, being unable to use armor (the stuff keeps melting), and being hunted by well-informed forces of good (everybody knows about Balrogs), for a total of +3 CP per level. Personal disadvantages include being Irreverent (not even evil gods will grant clerical magic, responsibilities, or help, to a creature that fled the service of its previous godly master), being Outcast (even other evils don’t like to associate with a Balrog unless forced. Terrified slaves are easy to get, loyal henchmen are nearly impossible), and Accursed (their flame is really hard on equipment: even the best weapons tend to grow over-heated, out of temper, and fragile in their hands), for another +10 points – giving us a grand total of 250 to work with, plus the basic level-based allotment of three bonus feats and two bonus characteristic points to spend.

   That looks a lot like Gandalf – which it probably should: they’re both spirits from the Undying Lands in material forms, and are pretty much warped reflections of each other.

Race: Corrupted Maiar (31 CP – Right at the limit of a +0 ECL).

  • +2 Str and +2 Chr (24 CP).
  • Fast Learner x2 (Specialized in buying larger hit dice: 1d20 at L1, base of d8’s later, 12 CP)
  • Innate Enchantments (L0: Detect Magic, Read Magic, and Resistance [+1 Resistance Bonus to Saves], L1: Mage Armor [+4 Armor Bonus], Shield [+4 Shield Bonus], Immortal Vigor [+12+2x Con Mod Bonus HP], Psychic Whip [the wielder may make “unarmed” attacks at ranges of up to 40′ with one hand, including attempts to trip, grapple, and snatch things], Fast Healing I [Heals up to 20 HP per level per day at one point per round], Jump [+10 to Jump checks], Bane [all enemies within 50′ must save each round or take a -1 to attacks and saves against fear effects], Resist Energy [resistance 10 to all energy forms], +2 Str, +2 Dex, and +2 Chr, all at caster level one, personal-only where relevant, 20 CP). Note that the Innate Enchantments may vary somewhat from one Balrog to the next. Normally they’d also need to pay 1544 XP to activate all of those abilities, but they bullied the GM, and are generally NPC’s anyway, so I’ll let them off this time. By the time they get to be level three or four 1544 XP isn’t going to make much of a difference anyway.
  • Immunity to having his Innate Enchantments Dispelled (6 CP)

   Fortunately for Balrogs, the entire package is specialized: the user is an obvious demonic horror, is subject to spells that target evil creatures (whether or not it actually is evil), and can be damaged by holy water, positive-energy, and light-based effects (1d6 per level of the spell or effect). Balrogs can get rid of these limitations – returning to what they once were – either by accepting a +1 ECL adjustment or by dropping the attribute adjustments and paying off 7 CP worth of the other abilities.

Their personal abilities include:

  • Hit Dice 8d12 (Fast Learner bonus + 32 CP)
  • BAB: +4 Warcraft (Balrogs rely excessively on their strength and ability to increase their size, 24 CP)
  • Saves: +4 Fortitude (12 CP), +4 Reflex (12 CP), and +4 Will (12 CP)
  • Skills: 21 SP (21 CP)
  • Proficiency with all Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP) 
  • Spell Resistance of [Level + 5] (6 CP)
  • Martial Arts/1d6 Natural Weapons (6 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Darksight (6 CP)
  • Presence/Aura of Fear (Improved and Superior: +4 to all rolls to intimidate or dominate others, would-be attackers mustmake Will saves at DC [13 + Cha Mod} each round, although members of groups who are currently being attacked get a +5 bonus, 18 CP).
  • DR 10/Magic, 5/-. The 5/- applies against all forms of damage, both physical and energy (12 CP for the 5/-, the remainder is Specialized (physical attacks only) and Corrupted (can be bypassed with magic weaponry), for a net cost of eight additional CP. (8 CP).
  • +4 Natural Armor (Defender, +[Level/] natural armor, +3 additional steps, 24 CP).
  • Channeling: 3 + (4x Cha Mod) uses/day (24 CP) plus some L3 and L6 4-Spell Conversion Packages (24 CP).
    • L3) Deeper Darkness, Dispel Magic, Nondetection, and Prayer.
    • L6) Fire Shield (Hot only, lasts ten minutes/level, also does damage if the user touches someone), Freedom of Movement (lasts 24 hours), Righteous Might (lasts one minute/level), and Unhallow.

   That neatly expends our 250 CP, although it still leaves us with three level-based bonus feats. I’d recommend Combat Reflexes (it’s almost certain to be fighting multiple opponents). Combative ones may want to get their BAB up to +6 (requiring both remaining bonus Feats). Those who prefer minions may want Leadership, or to get some spells they can use effectively at range.

   For attributes we’ll use the Elite Array – which gives us Str 15+1 (20), Int 10, Wis 8, Con 13+1, Dex 12 (14), and Chr 14 (18). Not bad.

   So: we can expect an average of 98 HP, Saves of Reflex +7, Fortitude +7, and Will +4, one attack at +9 and damage of (weapon +5), three Attacks of Opportunity, an Armor Class of 24, 21 Skill Points (probably mostly spent on senses), good damage reduction, the ability to so terrify most opponents as to render them unable to attack reliably, some useful – if fairly minor – innate talents, and some decent channeling abilities. Certainly enough to face tremendous numbers of low-level opponents lacking magical weapons, as well as enough to represent a reasonable challenge for a party of adventurers.

   Would our Balrog really lose out to Gandalf after a lengthy fight? Hard to say. It depends on how much damage each takes in the fall, who the environment favors, what spells Gandalf uses, and an tremendous number of die rolls / authorial privilege. It does look fairly competitive though: strength versus skill, block versus damage reduction, fast healing versus ring of fire…

   Should be fun.

How to play a Balor – or other large flaming things.

   Today we’re going to see about converting a Balor to Eclipse: The Codex Persona classless d20 Point Buy. This classical giant, flaming, demon-lord is a mighty creature which has risen through the ranks of demons to it’s current form and powers based on success, exceptional abilities, and sheer ruthless malevolence and treachery.

   Why bother since we’re reproducing the creature almost exactly? Well, if you want to play one, or make a weaker creature which is developing into one, you need to see how they grow into their full power.

   At full strength, the standard Balor is a CR 20 creature without much equipment – presumably, since a 20’th level character with gear is also CR 20 – making it equivalent to a properly-equipped character of level 22 or so. Since it has twenty hit dice, that means a +2 ECL template and 20 Outsider levels.

+2 ECL Evil Outsider Template (94 CP out of 95 available):

  • Str +6, Dex +6, Con +6, Int +6, and Cha +6: 180 CP.
  • One Level of Growth: Size Large: +8 Str, -2 Dex, +4 Con, +2 Natural Armor, -1 AC and To Hit versus medium-sized creatures, 48 CP.
  • Fast Learner x2 (Specialized in Skills, +4 SP/Level, 12 CP)
  • Immunity: Need not Eat, Drink, or Sleep (Common / Minor / Major, 6 CP).
  • Skill Bonuses: +8 on Listen and Spot (16 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision (6 CP)
  • Mindspeech (6 CP)
  • Spell Resistance of (5 + Level) (6 CP)
  • Returning (Specialized: must be slain on home plane or can come back after a year, 3 CP)
  • Fortunately – or unfortunately – for them, the entire template is both Specialized and Corrupted: The user is an obvious hideous demon, is inherently evil (and vulnerable to things that target evil creatures regardless of its current alignment), is vulnerable to spells that affect outsiders, and cannot normally be Raised or Resurrected. One-third cost.

Available Character Points:

   Level 20 gives us a base of 504 CP to work with, plus limitations and disadvantages – which are, for such a creature, substantial:

  • Duties (To Demon Princes and Dark Gods, +2 CP/Level)
  • Restrictions (Hated and Feared, Inherently Evil/Hunted by Rivals and Powers of Good, Cannot use most magical gear due to innate resistance and powers, +2 CP/Level).
  • Disadvantages: Compulsive (Treacherous and Demonic), Irreverent, and Unarmoured (+10 CP).
  • To fairly represent most such creatures – as veterans of centuries of supernatural conflicts, surrogates for demon princes and dark gods, and survivors of ruthless infernal competition, they should probably have some sort of infernal Package Deal and even some Unique Training – probably worth another 30 CP or so, for a total of 120 extra points.
  • That gives us a total of 624 CP to work with, on top of that +2 ECL template.

So what do we have to buy?

  • Hit Dice: 20d8 at L20 (80 CP)
  • Saves: +12 to all saving throws, totaling +36 (Resistance, 108 CP)
  • Warcraft: +20 BAB (120 CP).
  • Skills: 184 Skill Points (92 CP + 92 SP from Fast Learner)
  • Proficiencies: All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP)

   That costs 409 CP, leaving us 215 to spend on buying its special abilities:

Special Abilities:

  • Celerity +10′ Move Ground Movement (6 CP)
  • +60′ Flight Movement (Corrupted: requires room to spread wings 16 CP)
  • Defender +9 Natural Armor (Corrupted: does not stack with Armor and Shield bonuses, 24 CP)
  • DR 15 (Corrupted: Not versus Cold Iron and Good Aligned Weapons, 40 CP. Note that this also applies against energy and magical attacks, and thus subsumes a variety of other defenses)
  • 1d10 Natural Weapons (Martial Arts, 12 CP)
  • Immunity/Electricity, Fire, and Poison: all Common / Severe / Major for 30 points of effect, 27 CP total)
  • Immunity to having personal channeling-conversion spells dispelled (6 CP)
  • Negative Energy Channeling (3 + 4 x Cha Mod uses, Specialized: only for Spell Conversion, double number of uses, 24 CP).
  • Channeling/Conversion: Packages of L6, L6, L7, L9, and L9 spells. Corrupted: blatant dark magic only, at least one spell in each package (marked with an “*”) is once-per-day only. 64 CP.
    • L6) Eldritch Weapon/+1 Vorpal Sword, Eldritch Weapon/+1 Entangling Whip, Resist Fire and Electricity (Adds Resistance-30 for 24 Hours), Swift Flyer (Adds +30 Flight movement to existing flight movement for 24 hours)*,
    • L6) Deathtrap* (explodes when slain), Dispel Magic (Greater), Stone Ox (+8 Natural Armor at CL 12+, 24-Hour Variant), Telekinesis.
    • L7) Blasphemy, Fire Storm*, Insanity, Teleport (Greater).
    • L8) Flame Aura (6d6, 24 hour), Power Word Stun, Summon Demons*, Unholy Aura.
    • L9) Dominate Monster, Enhance Attributes (+6 to all for 24 hours), Implosion*, True Seeing (24 Hour).

   Now this version converts a lot of “Unlimited Use” items to the usual Eclipse “Limited use – but unlikely to run out during any given encounter”. It also normally expends at least six Channeling uses per day on powering up its personal abilities. Given that this creature also enjoys a +12 to its base Charisma, and gets [(3 + 4 x Cha Mod) x2] Channeling uses per day, that rarely matters. It also winds up with 2 CP – and seven level-based bonus Feats – left over. The 2 CP can be invested in a contact or something. The seven Feats can either be invested in the usual array for a Balor, or used to customize things a bit.

   As far as attribute totals go, they get +5 from being level 20, +10 from their size, +30 from their Template, and +36 from their spells. Nevertheless, I’m still assuming a “natural” average of 13-14. After all, these creatures have risen through the ranks over thousands of years. Presumably they were well above average to start with.

Shadowrun Spirit Imbuement II

   Well, the original rules for Spirit Imbuement in Shadowrun can be found HERE. This is a slightly boiled-down version of a discussion provoked by those rules – which is enlightening enough that it was worth posting as well as appending it to the original page.

J: About the elemental spirit binding: are the problems resulting in the merger primarily due to (a) people doing something really screwy and insane and (b) an imperfect bond?

T: Mostly its that the spirit tends to shape the body. A human body can readily handle, say, having heavier hair, bones, and bearlike claws. It doesn’t work so well when the liver keeps catching fire.

J: …Which goes back to point (b)? That is, things simply aren’t sorted out properly even with a spell to keep it fm going totally out-of-whack?

T: It’s more that things really can’t be sorted out properly by any known technique. Elemental body-patterns simply aren’t compatible with life as we know it. We can meld parts from different organisms with cross-species genetic transfers, transplants, and so on. No one’s ever successfully melded a functioning organism with a rock. The adaption spell both protects the body against the elemental effects and lets the body keep working around the rough spots. Without it, the elemental form tends to break down and absorb the human body – growing at its expense and becoming more powerful.

J: Which actually makes me think of a few things. See, if that’s the problem, I wonder if it can’t be harnessed for gain instead of, well, killing you.

T: Yes, you could try to stabilize at partway along the burnout cycle. It would be bad for your life expectancy and create a few other problems if you kept it up long-term, but it’s quite possible.

J: That wasn’t what I had in mind. I was thinking, since the elemental half tended to want to absorb the human half, what’s the problem?

T: It’s because it absorbs both the physical body and the human portion of the mind/spirit. Becoming an elemental is possible via metamorphosis, doing it this way just results in an elemental with some vague memories left over from the bonded period.

J: Well, that’s kinda what I was wondering. Can this be the accelerated process, jumping to a much higher force than otherwise? Secondarily, can’t the elemental form then reverse the process with magic, making a temporary human body to use and possess?

T: Yes, a free spirit elemental may be able to make a humanoid form to occupy: the human mind would still be dead and gone.

J: Why?

T: The spirit departs once too much of the neural structure is destroyed or changed: you can bind it to a talisman though, just like making a cyberzombie.

J: Can’t people use Metamorphosis to become an elemental/free spirit?

T: They can: that can transform their body and spirit, it isn’t trying to anchor it in another body – which is what the elemental has.

J: If someone attains an elemental form, can they use magic to make a human body to work through?

T: Yes: all the free spirit powers can be duplicated with spells.

J: And a character could speed up the transition to elemental form with the spirit binding?

T: Not normally: having an example internally won’t really change your spirit any faster. It probably wouldn’t help the body change any faster either really: the elemental is destroying it, not really transforming it.

J: Nothing in life for free, huh?

T: Not really, no. Sorry.

J: Why, precisely, does elemental bonding eat up your Karma? If the elemental aspect isn’t actually using it, where does it go?

T: It’s harder to gather spiritual energy because you’re already overcharged. Spirits don’t normally get karma of their own, so bonding with one cuts way down on the acquisiton rate. That’s why it matters whether or not it’s dominant. In practical terms, that usually means that a spirit-bonded character gets an immediate boost at the expense of their future potential for growth. Now, if they weren’t really planning a career of danger, adventure, and getting lots of Karma, it may be well worth it – or if they were weak to start with and wouldn’t have survived without a boost.

J: Another question: what would/did the spirits themselves say about this? Not just the little ones, but the Totems. I would think that Shamans would consider this an abomination, since it ties someone to the wrong totem (probably).

T: Well, totems basically have no relationship to animal spirits. Animal spirits are like minor elementals: shaped from astral energy according to a pattern. Elementals are patterned on human notions of elemental energy, watchers on their creators mind, and animal spirits on animals. They’re like nature spirits; not really individuals unless or until they’re kept around a long time and develop experiences and minds of their own.

J: That wasn’t what I asked. I asked what the totems would think about binding someone (whom, as far as they’re concerned, is a relative) to someone./something else which is not.

T: About the same as they think of Cyberware: animal spirits are not relatives of totems, they’re constructs.

J: You misunderstand; I was considering the human to be the relative.

T: Ah, basically just like cyberware – unnatural, but not really their concern. Bind to a construct of metal, bind to a construct of astral energy, use dangerous drugs – all about the same to them. Is all that any help?

J: I had been thinking about a character who was trying to become, well, something like an Exalt – human and fire elemental all at the same time. However, since he’d need considerable karma to pay for magical abilities, including initiations and enchanting, it seems unlikely to work.

T: Well, the easiest way is the initiation-metamorphosis route.

J: But that basically means that he’d never be able to afford the enchanting. Initiation soaks up karma faster than a sponge.

T: You could probably do most of the metamorphosis with a few levels of pre-game initiation. Call it “exaltation” and just go on from there.

J: It was kinda supposed to be the upgrade for the character who started as a neuroborg, once he got his body back.

T: Ah. Tricky there, since that’s sort of starting over.

J: Yup. Although, technically, once he’s no longer a neuroborg, what happens to his race pick?

T: Hm. It’s never really come up. You’d presumably get most of those points back, which would be enough to convert to a fairly powerful magician-type and possibly pay for a few levels of initiation. You could take them to start with and just call them “Latent” (and thus cheaper).

J: Well, that would work. I’d have to switch some disadvantages around, though. If you buy Neuroborg as race, do you also have to pay the cash cost or take it as “Freeware”?

T: Generally no.

J: Oh, oddly enough it seems that being a neroborg still gives you “base” physical attributes. I take it, that for no particular reason, these are permanent?

T: Yes. And no, there is no good reason for that outside of the fact that being changed back from a neuroborg is rare enough that I’ve never written any rules for it. After all, it would essentially be a near-total character rewrite.

J: Hehe. I understand. It just seems odd that neuroborgs can increase their strength with karma.

T: True enough: Most of them have stuck with mental improvements for just that reason.

Federation-Apocalypse: The Realm of Kadia:

   Today it’s something for the Federation-Apocalypse campaign: Kevins personal realm. Since Kevin has qualified as a minor deity, and bought the ability to create an afterlife-dimension for his followers, here it is… Anyone interested in the mechanics of becoming a deity can be check the classless d20 rules in Eclipse: The Codex Persona (available in print HERE or in a shareware version HERE)

The Realm of Kadia:

   Having tapped – however unconsciously – into the massed power of this followers, and thus having been infused with Godfire, Kevin has gone ahead and created his own divine realm and afterlife for them.

In general, the creator of a realm gets to:

  • Determine whether or not people can be injured there and, if they can be, whether or not they can “die”. For example, in dream- and cartoon- realms it’s often impossible to be truly injured. In hell-dimensions you may not be able to “die”, or even lose consciousness, no matter how badly hurt you are. In many “afterlives” you can “die”, but will simply wake up again at an appropriate location – whether that’s beneath the great tree of life, in Odin’s great hall, or in bed. Secondary effects in this category include enhancing or negating healing, aging, and similar effects.
  • Determine the general nature of the realm – it’s layout and description, whether the local timerate is fast or slow in comparison to the Prime Material Plane / The Core, and the realm limitations on technology, magic, psychic powers, and other special abilities – although magic points may be spent to overcome such limitations in the Manifold setting.
  • Grant ability packages worth up to 24 CP within the realm. These can be set up on a general basis (such as in the Dragonworlds, where everyone gets 24 CP off the cost of buying draconic powers if they choose to do so), be handed out to individuals, or a mixture of the two. In the Manifold setting this translates into up to three skill points off the cost of any local identity.
  • Define any stable dimensional access points, such as links to other realms. The creator can also define whether the realm is easy to reach, can be reached normally, or is difficult to reach otherwise, as well as how difficult it is to open gates or create overlays within it.
  • Buy Sanctum abilities, and have them apply to the entire realm.
  • Selectively suppress or enhance particular powers within the realm as long as he or she has access to at least one point of Godfire. Unfortunately, this is limited to (Cha Mod) modifications at any one time. In general, the realm-creator can suppress particular types of powers (reducing their effects by 3 levels) or enhance them (increasing their effect by one level, either making effects easier to use or adding metamagic), but is not him- or her-self subject to this suppression. The available modifications tend to default to suppressing the efforts of other deities: An intruding deity must expend one point of Godfire per point of suppression to invoke Godfire against the will of the dimension-creator, but that will suffice to overcome such resistance for hours or days.

   Kadia is an afterlife realm; you can’t actually die there: being “killed” simply results in waking up back at the mall a few hours later. You don’t age, and pretty much any physical, minor magical, or minor psychological problem – physical injuries, diseases, minor curses, the effects of weaponized memes, and similar difficulties – will go away within a few hours of arrival.

   Of course, since the creation of Kadia was a partially unconscious process, it was strongly influenced by his own assumptions about what reality “should be” like – in this case, a mixture of Core Earth and the Wylds of Faerie.

   Towards the center, Kadia looks a lot like Core Earth – futuristic computer-operated and -supervised cities and accommodations, built over underground support systems and industries, and mixed with a gardens and recreational “wilderness”. Unlike Core, the wilds are deeper, wilder, and more beautiful than is possible in a nonmagical realm – not to mention being populated with minor fey and wonderful supernatural creatures.

   There are giant malls to hang out in, recreational complexes and amusement parks, historical exhibits and re-enactments from the earths history, campgrounds, extremely high mountains to climb, animal exhibitions, sparring setups, hunting reserves (for both normal and shapeshifted forms), gardens, sailing, fishing, games, mecha battles, enhancement clinics, whitewater rafting and boating, and pretty much everything else a youngster could want. Of course, there are also larger allowances (especially for Kevin’s Thralls), plentiful and uncrowded facilities, easier access to personal enhancements and easier magic (so that the Thralls can play with, and practice with, their powers more).

   Further out, there are wilder and more dangerous zones: if you decide to go tiger-hunting with a knife and spear, spend a few months living in an ice-age zone as a hunter-gatherer, ride a dragon into battle, or fight a duel, you may well find it a painful experience before you wake up back at the mall.

   Non-phantasm staff and playmates are still gradually being collected – but Kevin has begun trying to hire staff from Core, stressing the benefits of visiting the place. He needs entertainers, show coordinators, speciality chefs, and similar types. He’ll also be offering limited recreational access for other core youngsters, so any thralls who are there will have people to hang out with – although that requires parental or computer consent, since the local age of majority is notably lower than in Core (although the protection from weaponized memes may make it attractive anyway). Finally, he’ll be purchasing property-class uplifted animals, simply to add some variety to the population.

   There are some notable legal differences between his realm and the Core: Age of Majority is adolescence. Those who voluntarily, and with full disclosure, accept obedience-programming are legal (rather than de facto) property – but their owners are responsible for their actions, care, and treatment. Limited-term indenture-contracts are legal, although indenturees retain the rights to proper care, a certain amount of time of their own, to owning property and accumulating money for later use or to buy time off their contracts. Ensouled slaves imported from other realms are considered indentured. Phantasms have more limited rights, but gratuitous abuse is still grounds for mandatory psychological counseling at the very least. Kevin is, of course, pretty much the final arbiter.

   The realm does encourage some things: visitors can easily pick up 8 CP worth of minor shapeshifting, witchcraft, or magic. Kevins followers – if any – get 16 CP worth of such abilities. Thralls get the full 24 CP – usually devoted to bonus uses for their shapeshifting, extra Power and/or faster Power recovery.

   There are links to several planets in Core, as well as to most of Kevin’s properties elsewhere, but the realm is semi-private. Overlays or “Reality Bubbles” are, however, fairly easy, costing a mere two points of mana to set up.

   Kevin is investing in the Sanctum abilities, but hasn’t yet established many of them.

   Finally, at the moment, Kevin is suppressing Weaponized Memes (-3 levels), spells and psychic powers of above level five (-6 levels, counts as two choices), non-follower gates and reality bubbles (requires 9 extra mana to set up, counts as three choices), enhancing transformation magic (one level easier to use), and suppressing other deities use of Godfire (use requires two extra Godfire points, counts as two choices).

   To some extent, the entire place is a commercial: it showcases the benefits of working for Kevin, and will make it easy to investigate his contract and allow anyone who’s interested to sign up: the details will be released onto the local network relatively shortly. At least as importantly, there are usually some thralls around to show off and recruit.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 34 Log

   With the ring-supernova wavefront only about a month away from Pictsome, and Yoda still on vacation on Thriss (no wonder the empire could never find him on Dagobah), it was time to go and try to save a planet… If Yoda needed the gate opened when he was done, all he’d need to do was call. The computers apparently had realtime connections across interstellar space, even if they didn’t like to admit it.

   Kevin’s best guess was that he’d need 120 thralls, distributed across Pictsome as equidistantly as possible (fortunately the computers were quite willing to supply some Flits). That was going to be awkward: he’d have to see if Marty would be willing to declare a planet-moving business holiday. Still, there weren’t very many other people left there, so there should be a lot of spare industrial capacity available to help out with Jarvian’s project if they did more it successfully.

   They didn’t bother to tell the House of Roses, the Military, or the Computers what they were up to: there were probably tracer orders on them anyway – but this way there would be no time for them to interfere even after the computers figured out what they were up to. That was why Kevin did all of his serious testing-planning and such either off the net – blanking the smartclothes memories afterwards – or off in Crusader where he couldn’t be recorded.

   Jarvain decided to try out this “magic” stuff. He’d read about Voodoo and the Greek Gods – and needed some fake blood and a rubber chicken for the ritual. He’d try and bring them some extra luck with an appeal to Mars, Hermes, and Nike via a chicken, a ram, and some decent wine. Oh well, why not…

   Wait: one last thing before they set out. The Ouratha were present on Thriss – so it should be easy enough to call them up for a consultation as to whether they’d observed any complications when organic sentients tried their weird tricks to move planets. The Ouratha were obliging enough; the major complications came up when multiple attempts occured or were being readied. There was something about another attempt being made in a recent timeframe (either past or future) that tended to mess up the targeting process. Well, they’d have had to check on that anyway.

   Getting to Pictsome turned out to be pretty easy: the main evacuation route had been through Crusader anyway, so there were a couple of gates available. All the orbs were currently in use, there were some other people around – and there were some current plans to rescue the place underway.

   Well, it looked like ATE was here coordinating an evacuation plan, along with some military observers and an Inquisitor from the New Imperium. They had pretty much the same idea – open a gate and try to get it wide enough to let the planet pass through. The attempt was scheduled for the next week.

   They called over to check, got past Janice (the company rep, who was pretty startled to realize that someone else was also planning to more the planet) – although Marty tried to make some time with her along the way – and wound up with a meeting with Ryan. It looked like ATE had a much more formal project in mind – more technologically based and more complicated. They hadn’t been able to pull up 120 gatekeepers in time. Ryan was planning to open the gate himself and use “repeaters” to try and widen and stabilize it. The Military had been hesitant about the idea and the House had been opposed.

   Ryan was moderately annoyed at the interruption initially – and somewhat surprised to find that Kevin hadn’t changed in fifty years, at least to all outward appearances. He’d recently been reminded of Hogwarts though: Dumbledore had asked him to do another round as a teacher – although with the way students had been being taken out of the place, he wondered whether it would be necessary.

   He also wondered how Kevin was planning on moving the planet. That kind of stunt took a lot of resources. He was having to use mechanical repeaters since he hadn’t been able to find more than 40 gatekeepers to assist him.

   He wasn’t pleased that Kevin had been infusing other kids with dark power, and binding them to him, to create his own Gatekeepers. He’d been hoping that the kid who’d “been sent to spy on him” was an isolated incident.

   That particular argument would go on for some time, both before and after they put things into motion – whether or not it was spying or just hunting for the best job, whether or not it was truly voluntary, whether or not Ryan was responsible for infusing Kevin with dark powers even if he hadn’t fully understood what he was doing, whether or not the kids were happy, whether or not the powers and immortality were suficient payment for such an indenture, whether Kevin was aware that the link worked both ways (he was), whether it would even make sense to give people reality editing and then make them unhappy for lengthy periods, etc, etc, etc…

   So did the argument over whether or not Marty was an “old school businessman”. Did coming from a cartoon premier about businessmen battling it out with ledgers and stock options really qualify as “old school”, or was it Viking era?.

   Still, moving the planet took priority. The Thralls would make it a lot easier – and Kevin’s link should let them coordinate well. The repeaters would still be useful, but their power reserves leaked horribly. They worked well enough for small gates or moving small asteroids, but the technique wasn’t scaling up well. Without a true consciousness, or at least a facsimile thereof, they simply leaked faster and faster as you scaled things up.

   Kevin thought that that might be part of the problem: Ryan knew that the Mana would leak off, had been afraid it would leak more quickly than predicted, and now fully expected it to do it. If he wanted his hieronymus devices to work, he really had to believe in them.

   Marty decided to give them a good talking-to. They should know better than to leak in an emergency like this!

   Ryan REALLY wanted to object to that somehow. Even if the universe WOULD work that way for Marty, it really SHOULDN’T.

   Kevn suggested keeping puppies with them too, because people liked puppies, and so Mana should too.

   That actually worked pretty well. The puppies also seemed to help a bit. They gave the repeaters something to talk about… They decided to start as soon as Marty had things ready: it would be easy to be a couple of weeks off on the arrival of the wavefront, and nobody needed that.

   The repeaters turned out to be sort of unethical when awakened: they’d all “been considering escaping on their own”. Not much “one for all and all for one” spirit there.

   Marty suggested unionization, bargaining for upgrades, and the threat of riots and explosions in reserve. Ryan threatened lawyers. Marty suggested saving arbitration for after they saved the planet and moved somewhere where machine consciousness was easier to maintain.

   It was a deal, provided that the humans fed them enough power. Fortunately, there was plenty available.

   And some puppies.

   They got pretty much everyone who was vulnerable to being killed offworld and went to work. Kevin had the Thralls take the primary load: if it killed any of them, they could easily come back.

   The opening went fairly well: they got a radiation-blast as the portal clipped the upper fringes of the atmosphere – note to self; next time keep the Thralls near the greatest extension in the upper atmosphere – but the transit completed and the portal closed without major incident save for another radiation-flash as the portal closed a few moments too soon. Again, station gatekeepers in the upper atmosphere next time.

   There was a minor gravitational shockwave of course, plus cutting magnetic field lines and discharging the ionosphere and van allen belts, some minor earthquakes, and similar troubles – but they seemed to be near a suitable star. It would take awhile to determine the orbit and make any necessary modifications.

   It didn’t even look like anyone had died in the process, although the radiation spike had been fairly nasty. Well, that was easily curable – unless it hit people who were already through, in which case they might well become radiation-maddened supermutants.

   Meanwhile, Ryan continued his argument with Kevin: he really couldn’t find very many rational (and non-hypocritical) objections – but turning kids into obedient pet slaves – even if they did accept it willingly, were getting full disclosure and a free choice (the tape was pretty bloody thorough), were getting a good deal, were being treated decently, were not abused, were assured of survival and eventual freedom, were being kept out of most major trouble, were being provided with a comfortable afterlife/resurrection waiting room, and even if the deep bond was required for resurrecting them – was just wrong somehow. They were too young to be making that kind of decision!

   Kevin, of course, being about that age himself, thought that they were quite old enough to be making that kind of decision – at least where the local laws allowed it.

   Wait: Kevin had created a personalized afterlife for them?!? That required more than power: that kind of control over the dimension-creation process required Godfire…

   Kevin had never heard of that, but wasn’t too impressed. He was pretty used to Crusader; “God” was just another origin story.

   Ryan put another emphasis on keeping track of the boy.

L5R Log Update: Sessions 80 and 81

   The Planar War: A Sea of Troubles, In Black and White. Kochige, Ninsei, Okari, Michio, and Najite.

   The Mantis had more information on the Ivory Kingdoms – the locations of some of the major ports, the major languages, which ports welcomed foreigners, the entry procedures, and a fair amount of information about the local governments – although it was hard to credit that most of their “gods” and “demons” were incarnate as humans and were wandering about in the streets. Still, with the Empress’s backing, it was easy enough to get a ship and a crew.

   Unfortunately, Najite disliked sea travel, and retired to the hold for the duration – where Ninsei, sure that Najite was a spy, sent a water-animation to harass him. The escalating war of pranks had to be called on account of it threatening to destroy the entire ship, the undersea explosions wreaking havoc on the creatures of the sea, assorted side effects, and having to take out a little time to learn a few languages. Fortunately, and with liberal use of more magic, they had almost everything repaired by the time they encountered some pirates off the coast of the Ivory Kingdoms. Unfortunately, the Pirates had recognized the style of ship – and that it was likely to yield goods of great rarity and value – and thus two of their leaders had come in person to make sure that they took it. They were a pair of Asuras – Jitender Narkoon, a Master of the Seven Secret Cuts and the Leaping Flame Sword schools, and Rangan Kieroth, a master of the Hungry Ghost and Night Wind of the Soul schools. Both, of course, were past masters of the Meditations of Unity, and had been reborn before – having only to rebuild their ranks to reactivate their old techniques.

   There were substantial casualties among the crew thanks to Jitender’s Strike of the Icy Dragon – and Rangan pretty much freaked out both Kochige and Ninsei when they realized that the Hungry Ghost’s Haunting Feast Technique involved biting chunks out of people and using the resulting link to share their magical talents. Still, they managed to take out Rangan after a fierce battle – thanks in large part to that mysterious knife-thrower again – but Jitender escaped via his Void Dragon Doom Slash Technique. Most of the normal pirates, and their ship, they simply captured.

   Had they been unlucky enough to stumble across some freakishly powerful pirates, or was this sort of thing normal in the Ivory Kingdoms?

   After connecting with the local navy – with ships considerably better than the Empire’s designs (blast it; was every major seafaring civilization equipped with better ships? Of course, the Empire’s designs hadn’t really changed since the first Hantei – and there hadn’t been any master shipbuilders at the time) – they were greeted by the local authorities, who were mostly concerned with taxes. They didn’t seem to consider foreign adventurers of any great importance compared to the local Asuras and Devas. In fact, it looked like they’d simply consider the group to be more Asuras or Devas if they dressed appropriately – or just treat them as minor members of whatever caste/social group they decided to dress as, or as “mysterious foreigners” if they didn’t choose to change to suit the local dress codes. Most of them didn’t change – why should they dress oddly to accommodate the notions of the Gaijin? – although Okari and Kochige decided to dress in the colors of the local priesthoods and the local law-enforcement caste. It seemed appropriate, as well as being fairly close to their usual color schemes anyway.

   It was a bit upsetting that they didn’t really consider Ninsei anything too abnormal. Apparently being an atrocity of supernatural power as a small child simply classified him as an Asura, and was seen as being normal enough – albeit someone to treat with caution.

   The local Devas in the temple district were reasonably helpful – although Ninsei threw a fit when Kochige carefully steered him away from the Tantric temple, with the usual “What are all you adults hiding from me!” routine and Okari created minor disturbances by causing the local child-pickpockets to keep pulling hundred-pound bags of rice out of his pockets. Even if the locals seemed to tolerate small children committing minor thefts, it didn’t seem right to him that they should need to… Najite was less tolerant. He promptly used the Demon Mirage to cause one such child to offend an Asura – and was horrified when the man used the Venom of Nightmares technique from the Blood Tide School to inflict a hideous doom upon the boy. He had to take him to Kochige to try and undo it – and wound up financing their relocation.

   There was plenty of Rakasha lore available – especially from the local gravetenders.

   It seemed that the local burial rituals were designed to purge evil from the soul, so that – when it was reborn – it should not be haunted by past sins. Unfortunately, this meant that graveyards were quite dangerous: until long years of rituals properly neutralized the evil residua, there was a risk that – if the grave of someone who’d been powerful and wicked in life went untended – it would become a focus for evil, and give rise to a Rakasha – a soulless, immortal, incarnation of Evil with powers loosely based on whoever’s evil had become the focus plus the ability to manifest fragments of itself in multiple locations, selectively varying their solidity and importance. Once a Rakasha was born, it would kill, harvest the wickedness of the slain, drive the tenders away from the local graveyards, and grow in power. It could not hold souls for long – but while it did, it could draw upon their powers and skills. They could be scattered with blasts of holy power (and would have to slowly pull themselves together again), entrapped with appropriate wards, and prevented from growing – and even weakened and eventually drawn back and (over the centuries) dissipated by properly tending and performing rituals at the untended grave at their core. They dared not personally disturb their own graves, lest the feedback cast them adrift, to be consumed by other Rakasha as they dissipated. They were vulnerable to bone, ivory, leather, and – in fact – to any dead flesh, for it was the nature of animal tissue to bond spiritual energies to itself, so leather armor and bone or ivory weapons offered considerable protection against them. They could be warded off with bloodsalt, or by bone or ivory warding rods driven into the earth to ground them.

   There were many tales of Rakasha: Both the Asura and Deva’s often opposed them. One had risen some two centuries ago when an army had laid siege to the city, many graves had gone untended, and a medical center had been set up over such a grave near a battlesight. That one had slain many, many, men, manifesting, striking, and killing iwth extraordinary speed before a truce had been called and the Gravetenders had been able to go about their work once more. Others had possessed rulers, broken levees to cause floods – and incidentally conceal old graves – and otherwise caused much havoc. The Designer was amongst those tales: it’s roots may have reached back for nearly 1800 years. It had risen to power some 1200 years ago, apparently after a series of wars had left many graveyards lost and untended. It had created a reign of terror for nearly 800 years – sending forth it’s horrific mechanisms to kill and maim – until finally a heroic group of Asuras and Devas had located it’s grave and sealed it away some 400 years ago. There was still a temple on the spot, dedicated to maintaining a vigil over an evil that would still be potent for many centuries to come.

   Meanwhile, Kochige went in search of someone who could teach him some advanced meditation techniques, some Mudra, and – possibly – something about the Meditations of Unity. Artagupta said that Kochige had remarkable talent, possibly enough to transcend the wheel in relatively short order despite being so incomplete – and began to teach him the basics of the Great Tour of the Embryonic Pearl.

   Kochige managed to avoid becoming lost between the dimensions of the Great Tour – but it was tempting. So many other worlds to see and explore, so many possible aspects of the self.

   Meanwhile, Ninsei had found a skilled stone mage, and was getting some information on that topic. It was going to take some patience: there was a lot of lore available, and the practitioner he’d found was no great master. Still, even getting some of the basics might be invaluable.

   Regrouping, they decided that a trip to the Temple of the Rakasha’s Doom would be in order.

   It took several days – but was quite revealing. There was indeed a Rakasha there, but it was NOT the designer. They’d encountered him recently enough to know what HE felt like. Apparently he’d tricked the adventurer’s who’d been after him into sealing up another Rakasha instead and had quietly relocated to the Shadowlands.

   They must have been getting close.

   The priests still had a lot of records of the old investigation… Perhaps they could reconstruct enough to locate the real gravesite.

   They promptly got to work. 

   9/12 XP, Free Speciality in Theology/Ivory Kingdoms, 2 points of free training (Mudra for Kochige and Okari, Gem Lore and Gem Magic for Ninsei, Rakasha for Michio, Ivory Kingdoms Courtier for Najite).

Aetherial Ways

   This time around we have another Rolemaster spell list – in this case one designed to draw on the massed minds of the world around you. Why put this up? Well, there are still some people playing Rolemaster out there – possibly even the older editions – and (far more importantly), the list contains a fair number of interesting ideas that can be pulled into other games.

Aetherial Lore

   The world is full of minds – and every one of them leaves psychic traces, “leaks” mental energies, makes it’s small contribution to the worldmind, and resonates with various skills and knowledges. Such cacophony is a constant undercurrent in every mentality. Still, once you’ve organized, and disciplined, your own mind enough to recognize the constant bombardment of stray thoughts, it becomes possible to draw upon them.



Area Of Effect




Organize Knowledge





Tamper Warning






One Target




Pulse Of The Proletariat


1 Hr/Lvl



Charm Master


1 Hr/Lvl



Retrieve Knowledge





Mind Screen





Spin The Tale

One Target




Lifeblood Of The Bourgeoisie


1 Hr/Lvl



Lesser Arcana


1 Hr/Lvl



Mind Focus





Mind Mirror





Spell Trigger





Pride Of The Gentry


1 Hr/Lvl



Minor Arcana


1 Hr/Lvl



Focused Master





Mental Guardian





Wise Council

One Target




Way Of The Noble


1 Hr/Lvl



Major Arcana


1 Hr/Lvl








The Secret Ways


1 Hr/Lvl



Master The Tarot


1 Hr/Lvl



Zen Master




   Organize Knowledge (S.) Allows the user to arrange the knowledge in his/her mind to maximize efficiency. This translates into a +20 to Reasoning. RCII, Pg 60)

   Tamper Warning (S*.) Alerts the caster to attempts to tamper with his or her mind. (SUC, PG 72).

   Weirdin (F) Allows the caster to engrave “Weirdin” (Classical “Runes”; magical symbols with little power of their own, but which serve to focus and direct power from other sources. While useful in ritual magic, and in the creation of (relatively trivial) mystic items, their real point is in the creation of magical tools, items which add to a mages chance of success in using magic, just as having a set of lockpicks improves the odds on picking a lock. An appropriate “tool” adds 10 to 20% to a mage’s skill with a spell, or to the odds of success with a mystic ritual. Trivial magic items include self-cleaning clothing (Wearer may spend 1 PP to look good), digestive amulets (As effective as any other form of antacids or pepto-bismol), boots which keep your feet warm (comfortable in cold weather) – and many others). The caster may engrave one weirdin per casting, taking about fifteen minutes to do so.

   Pulse Of The Proletariat (I) Permits the caster to select a very common skill (normally includes; Active Artistic, Athletic, Communication, Craft, General and Technical Lore, Outdoor, many/most Technical/Trade, and Urban skills) to use at a +25% bonus for the duration of the spell. This also negates the usual penalty for not having such a skill to begin with. As a note, Body and Power Point Development are NEVER available in this fashion.

   Charm Master (I) Allows the caster to use the many minor charms associated with particular crafts (these include items like “Shear Sheep”, “Leaven Bread”, and “Clean Hair” – spells associated with farmers, cooks, and beauticians, respectively. Such spells typically cost 0-1 PP each. No specific lists are presented, as such spells usually don’t come on lists. If somebody want’s to learn them, they “come with” the associated craft, technical, or “professional” skills at one per level). Each casting of this spell allows the caster to tap into the trivial spells associated with a particular common profession, enabling him or her to use them freely for the duration.

   As a note, most of the spell lists have associated trivial magics. Does it really make sense that the mighty level 25 magician, a master of Fire Law, can’t manage to magically light a lantern short of creating a “Wall Of Fire”? It is recommended that any mage be allowed to produce “minor” effects within their spell lists for 0 PP (1 per 12 if someone insists on trying to abuse this). Yes, a healer can soothe his child’s stomach-ache – something they have apparently – until now – lacked the power to do.

   Retrieve Knowledge (S*.) Allows the caster to retrieve knowledge from his mind efficiently, and almost instantaneously, giving him a +20 to his Memory. (RC II, Pg 60).

   Mind Screen (D*) Allows the user to “parry” mental probes/attacks by expending an equal number of PP.

   Spin The Tale (I) Allows the caster to pick up the “psychic impressions” or “vibrations” given off by an area, person, or item. While this does tend to be a bit vague on things like names and dates, it can give the caster a lot of information on emotional events and states, motivations, purposes, dramatic scenes in the target’s past, and the target’s general history. This is sometimes misleading; an old house where the local kids terrify each other with “ghost stories” may have almost as strong a psychic aura as someplace which is actually haunted. Similarly, if a target happens to be exceptionally famous, the user may “pick up” items from his or her reputation, rather then directly.

   Lifeblood Of The Bourgeoisie (U) As per “Pulse O/T Pr.”, above, except that it allows the user to employ skills which are merely common (usually; Passive Artistic, Armor (All), Awareness, Magical Lore, Science/ Analytic, and rare Technical/Trade skills).

   Lesser Arcana (U) Permits the user to tap into the knowledge needed to use levels 1-5 of any “Open” list appropriate to his (or her) realm(s) of power for the duration of the spell.

   Mind Focus (S.) Permits the user to concentrate on long, involved, tasks more effectively. This provides him, or her, with a +20% bonus on long-term projects, such as mystic rituals, research, and crafts. It does NOT help with short-term tasks unless – perhaps – the user can afford to take at least ten minutes “out” to focus on the trick. This looks neat at exhibitions – but is rarely practical for adventurers.

   Mind Mirror (D*) The user may now seal his mind so well that it “reflects” psychic energies. On the more practical level this means that any would-be prober / mind-reader will see nothing except a confusing swirl of random, useless, impressions. In combat, the user may “reflect” mental attacks – turning them back upon their originator if he or she successfully resists.

   Spell Trigger (F) This handy spell lets the caster “store” “precast” spells in his or her mind, ready to be released by some key phrase, gesture, or any other selected trigger. Unfortunately, this is subject to a variety of limitations; The caster may only store one spell per point of his or her memory statistic bonus, the total number of PP stored in “triggerable” spells may not exceed his or her constitution, and the level of any single “stored” spell may not exceed 1/5’th of the caster’s level, rounded down.

   Pride Of The Gentry As per “Pulse”, above, except that it allows the user to employ skills which are relatively rare (The province of those with money and social graces – and time to practice (Usually; Combat Maneuvers, Directed Spells, Influence, Obscure Lore – and Self Control).

   Minor Arcana (U) Permits the user to draw upon the knowledge needed to use levels 1-10 of any Open Spell List, or levels 1-5 of any Closed S List, appropriate to his (or her) realm(s) of power for the duration of the spell.

   Focused Master (U.) This spell permits the user to ignore petty distractions, focus his or her mind on a task – and draw efficiently on his or her reserves in pursuit of his or her goals. This translates into a +20 bonus to Self-Discipline.

   Mental Guardian (M) Creates a psychic construct or “guardian” to defend the caster’s mind; Any attack on the user’s mind will first encounter, and defeat, the guardian in mental combat (It has an 80 rating and will engage the attacking mage until destroyed) before the caster’s mind can be affected.

   Wise Council (S*) Allows the caster to draw on the massed wisdom of the populace, along with a detailed, if unconscious, reading of the target’s aura, to give the target comfort, council, and advice. If the target is a player-character, the GM should assist in this. As a side effect, character’s possessing this “spell” will never be surprised by popular trends, uprisings, and similar events.

   Way Of The Noble (I) As per “Pulse Of The Proletariat”, above, except that it allows the user to employ skills which are definitely unusual, the province of those who can afford to dedicate themselves to something other then making a living or maintaining their positions. (This usually covers; Power Awareness and Power Manipulation, Special Attacks, Special Defenses, and Weapons Skills).

   Major Arcana (U) Permits the user to draw upon the knowledge needed to use levels 1-15 of any Open Spell List, 1-10 of any “Closed” Spell List – or 1-5 of any Arcane or Professional Base List appropriate to his / her realm(s) of power, for the duration of the spell.

   Loremaster (S.) Permits the user to subconsciously “harvest” the wealth of knowledge which “drifts” upon the aether, rather then merely tapping into it. This potent ability doubles the effects of any development points spent on Communication, Craft, Lore, Technical and Trade skills. Any such skills already possessed are enhanced by one rank.

   The Secret Ways (I) As per “Pulse Of The Proletariat”, above, except that it allows the user to employ skills which are kept scarce, hidden, and secret – the province of those who keep to themselves. (Usually; Martial Arts; Striking/Sweeps and Subterfuge Attack/Mechanics).

   Master The Tarot (U) Lets the caster tap into the knowledge needed to use levels 1-20 of any Open Spell List, 1-15 of any “Closed” Spell List, or 1-10 of any Arcane or Professional Base List appropriate to his / her realm(s) of power, for the duration of the spell.

   Zen Master (S*.) Having mastered the power to “act without thought” – and achieved near-total mastery of their minds and unity with the minds about them – those rare individuals capable of casting this “spell” gain an immunity to mental manipulation (induced emotions, mind control, and so on) and detection (They “simply” reflect the world around them. As far as being sensed goes, there is nothing there). In addition, they may act twice as quickly as usual.